iPhone 2.1 Software Update: Podcasts Get Some Love

I got in early on the iPhone 2.1 update, and the whole process from download to finished update only took about 10 minutes.  Not bad considering the fact that on the last update, some people’s phones were rendered useless for a few hours until iTunes was finally able to activate them.

Podcast lists are now displayed using the show name & title format, with the title being displayed at a smaller text size.  This means that you can see more of the title on the screen, which is important for podcasts like TED where each episode has its own topic.  For example, a recent episode was displayed on the 2.0.2 software as "How to survive a nu..." (IIRC), but is now displayed as "How to survive a nuclear..."  Perhaps that’s not a huge change, but for some titles, 5 extra letters can make the difference between knowing or not knowing what the heck the episode is even about.  The full title of this episode is "How to survive a nuclear attack - Irwin Redlener (2008)", and unfortunately there’s not a single place on the iPhone where you can view the full title like that.

Another nice new feature is that, if you select a video podcast from the Podcasts menu, instead of from the Videos menu, then it will be able to play in either vertical or horizontal mode, auto-flipping as you turn the iPhone, like many other apps do.  For some reason, from the Videos menu, only horizontal mode is supported.  One nice thing about this vertical video mode is again related to the title of the media: the same podcast from above displays as "How to survive a nuclear attack -...", which gives us 9 more letters of the title than the podcast listings page does.  Unfortunately, in horizontal mode, the title isn’t displayed at all, which is a shame since that’s the mode where we’d be able to see the most of it!  [Update: looks like this feature was actually present earlier, at least in 2.0.2, and I just didn’t notice it until now.]

One more nice touch is that for podcasts (and presumably TV shows and movies), the blue dot that appears next to items that you haven’t yet watched or listened to, and that disappears once you have, now displays as a half-empty dot for items that you’re in the middle of.  That’s extremely useful for people like me who listen to lots of podcasts.

This one may have actually been fixed by iTunes 8, and not iPhone 2.1, but: when using the Remote app on the iPhone to play audio/video in iTunes on your computer, if you selected a video podcast which can also play as an audio-only podcast, iTunes would only play the audio.  It now plays the video too.

And the Genius feature is really pretty sweet.  When a song is playing, just tap the Genius icon and the iPhone will instantly generate a new playlist of similar songs.  It’s Pandora for your own music collection.  And in iTunes itself, there’s a Genius sidebar that will suggest songs that you don’t currently own, so you can buy them from the iTunes Store.

Unfortunately there’s still no friggin’ scale bar in the Maps application, but what can you do.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply


01. Sep 17, 2008 at 04:41pm by Anthony:

It’s not all good news for podcasts in v2.1, though; one big new bug is that the iPhone now plays podcasts -- even video podcasts -- as if they’re music albums, so when one is finished, it automatically plays the next one.  That’s wrong, and the old behavior was correct: podcasts are played singly, not as albums, so when one is finished, you just stop playing.

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