App in Focus – getting started with the Apple Podcasts App

Apple Podcasts logo in purple and white

by David Redmond

Podcasts are huge. They have lots of listeners, and many of the world’s top podcasters are now multi-millionaires. There are also loads of smaller podcasts on every topic imaginable. No matter what you’re interested in there’s a podcast out there that focuses on it. But how are you going to listen to them? If you’re an iPhone user the most common way is to use the Apple Podcasts app, and in this article, we’ll show you how it works.

Let’s start with the tabs

The app has four tabs at the bottom of the screen. Each section can be found by simply flicking and double tapping with VoiceOver. The tabs from left to right are, listen now, discover, library, and search. These are fairly self-explanatory

Listen now tab

The listen now tab shows you all the stuff that’s new from the podcasts you’ve followed. So, let’s say you subscribed to the NCBI Talking Technology podcast, and a new episode comes out, you will find this new episode here, ready for you as soon as you open the app. You will also see podcasts that have some remaining time left, so if you want to come back to a podcast you can pick up where you left off.

If you keep flicking down through this section, you’ll find headings like recommended for you or popular now. These basically do what they say on the tin, the app is just suggesting stuff it thinks you might like, based on stuff you’ve already listened too. There are more headings past this point on specific topics such as food or movies, but this will be different for everyone.

Discover tab

The discover tab is basically a featured section. This is generally where you’ll find the biggest podcasts at the moment, or the podcasts apple wants people to listen to. You can go into different categories here too so you can see what’s popular in each category. As an example, if I enter the section as I write this, we have a selection of podcasts to celebrate Black history month, alongside a new podcast from Síle Seoige.

If you want to explore by category or check out the podcast charts, you’ll need to flick up a few times with three fingers, all those options are at the bottom of the page under a section called podcast quick links.

The final thing you might find in this section are podcast collections. The catch here is that oftentimes voiceover doesn’t read the collection name, so you have no idea what’s in store. Feel free to explore these, but keep in mind it’s not a very accessible experience.

Library tab

This is where you’ll find all the podcasts you follow. There are four sections at the top, shows, saved, downloaded, and latest episodes. These all just put you in the respective lists, such as the shows list or the latest episodes list. The difference between saved and downloaded is that saved podcasts act like bookmarks to get back to the podcasts later, but they are not downloaded for offline listening.

Underneath these four options is a recently updated section, much like the one we had over in the Listen Now tab. It’s just another way to quickly find the podcast you’re looking for.

Search tab

The search tab does something quite revolutionary, it might just change the world, oh wait, no, it’s just a search tab.

You can search for podcasts or podcast episodes by using the text box, or if you just want to explore there are also categories here to choose from.

It’s really simple, but it doesn’t need to be anything complicated.

Ok let’s get listening

Let’s say I want to listen to the NCBI Talking Technology podcast. I’ll start by searching for it in the search tab. Once I search, it shows up straight away. I can then double tap to go into the podcast and go through the latest episodes.

When you enter a podcast it’s worth noting that you can flick from right to left if you want to go back and find buttons such as the more button and follow button, but by flicking forward you’ll find details about the show, a button to play the latest episode, as well as all the rest of the show’s episodes. Some shows have trailers at the top, but this isn’t always the case.

In the case of the NCBI talking Technology podcast, I’ll just double tap the play latest episode button, and it starts playing straight away.

The Player
If you’ve used any player before you’ll be right at home. You can play, pause, go forward and back, adjust volume, adjust playback speed, set a sleep timer and more. It’s all super accessible, and all you need to do is flick and double tap.

If you like you can dismiss the now playing screen, in which case you can use the mini player just above the tabs to play/pause your audio. You can also use the mini player to go forward, but not back.


Podcasting is a great way to pass the time as you take a bus journey, do some housework, or relax in bed. The Apple Podcasts app is quite accessible despite a few issues, and it’s generally quite a good experience.

More variety in podcast choice would be great, but generally there is a podcast out there related to your interest. I’ll put links to a few of NCBI’s podcasts below to help get you started, and feel free to share your suggestions with us over on Twitter. You can find us by tweeting @NCBI_Sightloss. When you find, our podcast don’t forget to subscribe so you get notifications as new episodes come available. You can also subscribe by playing the podcast and then say Hey Siri follow this show.

NCBI’s Podcasts

Talking Technology with NCBI Labs: this is our Technology Podcast. Panellists and guests discuss all the goings on in the world of main-stream and assistive technology. What’s the best screen reader to use? What apps are now accessible? how does audio description work? These questions and more are all up for discussion.

Listen link:

NCBI Podcast: June Tinsley hosts this show where you can hear from service users, staff, and more as they discuss their experience of sight loss. Listen in and find out about how visually impaired and blind people live and work in the sighted world. The podcast also covers events, so it’s a great way to stay connected with what’s going on at NCBI.

Listen Link:

Maddie + Triggs: this is one for the kids. Maddie is seven, and Triggs is her doggy best friend. Maddie has a visual impairment, so she loves exploring the world with sound and music. Maddie and Triggs chat to cater-pillars, brush their teeth, and even have a sing song in the belly of a whale. It’s amazing what you’ll hear if you just take the time to listen. Maddie + Triggs is produced by Turnip and Duck for RTÉ, with the support of the NCBI

Listen link: