Apple’s Podcasts app finally makes its way to the Apple Watch with the watchOS 5 software update. It works similar to the Music app, both as a remote control for playback on your iPhone and as a standalone playback device. Yes! You can now play and stream podcasts episodes directly on your Apple Watch (using Wi-Fi or Cellular), no iPhone necessary!
After years of pining for a native podcasting app on Apple Watch, I have to say I’m beyond impressed. Yes, the feature set is quite basic and in true Apple style, there’s no manual control over syncing episodes from iPhone to Watch.
But the experience of browsing through your entire podcast feed, picking an episode and having it play instantly through the AirPods is just magical. And I can’t wait for third-party developers like Overcast and Pocket Casts to start using the same APIs that the Podcasts app is using.
How to Stream Podcasts on Apple Watch
The Podcasts app handles the syncing in the background. Your entire Library from the Podcasts app on the iPhone will be synced and available to browse on the Apple Watch (but that’s not the same as having all episodes available at all time).
There are two parts to the Podcasts app: On iPhone and Library. Let’s talk about the exiting part first: The Library.
When you open the Podcasts app, you’ll be able to scroll through a list of podcast episodes available to stream (the most recent episode will be at the top). Tap on the cover art and you’ll be taken to the Now Playing screen instantly. And this is where you’ll run into a wall. To output podcast audio from the Apple Watch, you’ll need to connect to a device using AirPlay or Bluetooth. You can’t play podcast audio from Apple Watch’s speakers.
From the available outputs, select your device. The best thing to do here is to use your AirPods, They connect instantly and work seamlessly. Once you’ve selected the output device, you’re ready to go. The audio will start playing and you’ll be able to control playback from the Now Playing screen. You also have options for rewind, fast forward, playback speed and the queue. The queue only shows available episodes for the same podcast.
You can now browse around the entire app. Go back to the app’s home screen and swipe all the way to the top. From here, select the Library option. This now becomes a repository of all podcast episodes that you can stream, instantly. Tap on any podcast and you’ll see a list of all episodes. Scroll, tap and the episode will instantly start streaming! Right from the Apple Watch to your AirPods. Nothing every goes through the iPhone. How amazing is that!
How to Control Podcasts on iPhone from Apple Watch
If you’ve got your iPhone connected to your speakers or your car, you can use the Podcasts app as a remote control as well. From the top of the Podcasts app, tap on on iPhone.
You’ll see four options here: Listen Now, Shows, Episodes, and Stations. If you’re already using the Podcasts app as the default podcast player, you know where to go.
Tap on Listen Now and you’ll get a list of all the episodes you’ve added to your feed. You’ll be able to view how far along you are in an episode as well. Tap on an episode to start instant playback (on the iPhone). If you want to find an old episode from a particular show, tap on the Shows option and drill down.
Use Siri To Listen to Podcasts
If you’re not already using the Apple Podcasts app as your default, this might just change your tunes. You can fully control the Apple Podcasts app from Siri. On your Apple Watch, you can just raise your wrist (no need to press the Digital Crown in watchOS 5!), and say something like “play The Daily” and the latest episode will start playing automatically!
You can also use this feature to play a specific episode of a podcast. For example, you can say “Play Episode 53 of No Such Thing as a Fish” (a personal favorite) and Siri will do it for you.
How to Subscribe To Podcasts on Apple Watch
The only way to subscribe to new podcasts on the Apple Watch is to use Siri. Bring up Siri on your Apple Watch and say something like “Subscribe to Stuff You Should Know podcast”. Then, Siri will do its thing in the background and if it finds a perfect match, she’ll ask for confirmation.
How to Find Downloaded Episodes on Apple Watch
The podcast syncing happens automatically and there’s no place to manually transfer a couple of episodes from iPhone to Apple Watch. And it only occurs when your Apple Watch is connected to power and is placed next to the iPhone. If you want your latest episode synced to the Apple Watch in the morning, you’ll have to start charging your Apple Watch overnight.
That said, there is a way for you to find out which episodes are available offline on Apple Watch. If you’re heading out for a run, this could be a good time to check that you’ve got a couple hours of your favorite episodes lined up.
In the Podcasts app, tap on Library -> Episodes. The episodes listed here are available offline.
Will You Switch to Apple Podcasts App?
The iOS 11 redesign of Apple Podcasts app ended up angering a lot of users. We’ve recommended Overcast as the best podcast client for iPhone in the past. But now that Podcasts app on iPhone supports features like chapter markers, are you going to reconsider using Podcasts app?
In fact, if you’re fond of listening to podcasts over HomePod or Apple Watch, the Podcasts app might be your only available option right now. Hopefully, Overcast’s fully featured native Apple Watch app isn’t far off.