Written by: Alex Curtis
One of those things that irks me about the iPhone and iPod Touch is that you can download iTunes music directly, but you can’t subscribe to podcasts. These two mobile devices are amazing because they free us from the traditional computer paradigm, but they just feel artificially limited by business model constraints. Fortunately, Matthew Smith is developing a solution called MobileCast that lets you download your podcasts directly to your iPhone, without having to first sync with your Mac or PC. Let’s take a quick lookâ€¦
MobileCast is a native iPhone app, not a web app. So, at least until Apple puts out their SDK, you’re going to need to jailbreak your iPhone / iPod Touch to install this app. If you’re running a recent version of the Installer.app, MobileCast can be found in the Multimedia category. Tap to install it, like any other app. After you exit the installer, MobileCast’s icon should be located on your Springboard (the home app menu).
When you launch the app, you’ll first need to add some RSS feeds in. Unfortunately, this process hasn’t been streamlined yet, so you’re going to have to manually type in each podcast feed or point the app to an opml file with all your feeds. This is pretty tedious, but hey, that’s what having a full keyboard on your phone is for, right?
After you’ve typed in a few podcasts feeds, save them, and you’ll see them listed by name in the main screen. Tap on a podcast and you’ll get a long list of all the episodes you can choose to download. Select one and tap the “download” button and you’ll get a progress bar showing how much you’ve got downloaded. If you’re running on the EDGE network, this will probably take some time, so you’re probably better off doing this on a WiFi network. But, unlike the Mobile iTunes Store, at least you have the option to get content when you’re out of WiFi range.
After you’ve successfully downloaded an episode, the red dot next to the episode will turn green. Select it and you’ll see the “download” button switches to “play.” When you hit play, the episode plays in MobileCast itself, showing the cover art of the episode. At the bottom you’ll see a time slider and a pause/play button. It’s a lot like the iPod player, but missing some features like volume control (the hardware buttons on the iPhone should work fine, but those on the iPod touch might be out of luck with this version of the software) and the ability to skip ahead to different chapters in the podcast. Also, like many of the 3rd party iPhone apps, MobileCast doesn’t yet respect the mute switch on the side of the iPhone.
The current released version of MobileCast can only playback audio podcasts, however, a beta version is supposed to playback video. Hopefully that feature as well as some of the control issues will be addressed soon.
If you’re dying to download podcasts on your iPhone or iPod Touch just like you download emails or webpages, you should give MobileCast a try. If you like it a lot, you might throw Matthew a few bucks toward Matthew via PayPal so he can continue development.