iOS7, iTunes, Podcasts, and FUCK YOU

So, I’m an Apple user when it comes to my phone.  I’m not one of the ‘fanboys’ who rabidly and vehemently fight tooth and nail about these things (anymore?), but I am pretty damn well versed on the topic.  Unlike most people who talk about these things, I actually have used an Android phone, an iOS phone, and a Windows Phone 8 phone.  I detailed my findings pretty clearly on reddit here if you’re at all interested.  I’ve been over that topic from front to back so I’m not going to revisit much of it today, except to say that having used some Nexus devices, I’ll give Android the credit where it’s due.  Most of the problems I had with my GS3 were Samsung’s fault, not Android’s fault.  All that’s just framing for the rest of this discussion, I’m not here to talk about the pros and cons of each of the OSes, more specifically to vent about one really, really stupid change that Apple made with iOS7.

I have a fairly lengthy commute to and from work.  I drive approximately 25 miles each way through fairly heavy traffic.  As such, my morning commute can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, and my return commute at the end of the day takes anywhere from 60-150 minutes.  There aren’t many side streets that aren’t just as congested, so it’s not like much can be done to address the amount of time I spend in the car on a daily basis.  To fill in this huge gap of every day with something somewhat worthwhile, I’ve taken to listening to podcasts.  I like music, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t find it engaging enough to keep my mind off the fact that I’m stuck in a line of cars that stretches endlessly in each direction.  I need something new that I can actively engage in.  Many years ago, my brother-in-law turned me on to a podcast by Kevin Smith called SModcast.  Great podcast, I recommend it — it’s definitely got a lot of dick and fart humor in it, so be wary if those types of things offend you (… idiot), but all in all it’s a pretty well made and engaging podcast.  I listen to it and a couple of others on a daily basis.

Here’s how syncing and listening to podcasts worked for me on iOS6 and earlier:

  1. n1ckn4m3 subscribes to podcasts in iTunes.
  2. n1ckn4m3 tells iTunes to download back episodes of podcasts he wants to listen to and keep them on his computer.
  3. n1ckn4m3 tells iTunes to sync the 5 least recent unplayed podcasts to his iPhone, and to not keep fully-played podcasts on his iPhone.
  4. n1ckn4m3 syncs his iPhone with his computer to get the podcasts on his iPhone.
  5. n1ckn4m3’s iPhone gets plugged in to n1ckn4m3’s car via 30-pin Dock connector every time n1ckn4m3 gets into his car.
  6. n1ckn4m3’s car stereo outputs the podcasts and provides head unit link and steering wheel controls for the playback of the podcasts (and everything else in the music library).

Now, this wasn’t *perfect*, but it worked pretty well.  I would have preferred the ability for the iPhone to sync podcasts automatically overnight instead of manually having to sync the phone (has anyone in the entire fucking world managed to make WiFi sync work better than black magic?), but the end result was that with a minimal of management, my iPhone kept a reasonably up-to-date set of podcasts locally and gave me stuff to listen to during my drive.  Not the most elegant of syncing solutions but quite workable.

At some point, however, Apple decided (as often) that good enough was no longer good enough.  They separated out the podcast playback functionality from the Music application and gave it its very own app for you to download from the App Store.  This brought about the benefit of syncing podcast playback data through iCloud across multiple devices, and also the ability for the iPhone to natively download the latest podcasts itself without a sync to iTunes.  Pretty great update, except for one thing:

Apple decided that the standard media library control method used by the Music app was not good enough, so it replaced it — thus breaking third party connectivity to the iPhone for the podcasts app for every single 30-pin dock connecting head unit and stereo in the entire world.

Beyond the fact that this was a big ‘fuck you’ to anyone who had written an app or had designed hardware around this interface (appreciably, Apple is not responsible for third party products that interface with theirs), it fucked my use-case up because once the Podcasts app had been installed on the phone, you could no longer see podcasts in the media library, access them through the car’s head-unit interface, or play them back through the 30-pin dock connector on the bottom of the phone.  Great job, Apple, you pretty much annihilated my use case in one sweeping upgrade.  The saving grace was that AT LEAST I could uninstall the Podcasts app on iOS6 and return to the standard behavior I had looked for, even if it meant I didn’t get auto-downloads and auto-update and iCloud sync.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago — Apple launches the new iPhone 5C and 5S, I head to my local carrier and pick up one of the 5S models on launch day.  Of course, iOS7 has taken the podcast/media library separation to new heights.  The Podcasts app is still not installed on the phone by default, and you can still sync podcasts to your iPhone using iTunes — but they go into a magical no-man’s-land on the phone, completely inaccessible until you install the Podcasts app.  That’s right, they removed the native ability for the Music app to even see or play these things now.  By default, without the Podcasts app installed, you’re effectively saying “Hey, iTunes, put some shit I can’t use on my phone to take up space.  Make sure it’s completely unusable, I don’t want to see or hear about these files ever again, I just want them to take up space on my phone.”  This is fucking stupid.  Just fucking stupid.  But OK, that’s a ‘thing’, and I’m damn sure not going to be able to downgrade the 5S to iOS 6.x to restore proper media library functionality, and I guess I do still have my old iPhone 4 sitting happily on iOS 6.1.2 — how about I just stuff my iPhone 4 into my car, leave it there, and sync that bad boy over WiFi?

Well, that sounds great in theory, but unfortunately — good enough was yet again not good enough for Apple.  iTunes 11.1 incorporates the new cloud sync behavior for podcasts.  I first noticed this when I realized that my D: drive on my desktop somehow had about 120GB more free space than it should have without me having done anything to affect it.  I started digging and realized that iTunes had (on my behalf, without asking, of course) deleted every single one of my podcasts marked ‘played’, even though I very specifically had told it never to delete local content without asking.  It had also decided to delete something like 40-50 unplayed podcasts spread through a couple of my podcast subscriptions.  After a sync, my iPhone 5S was showing every podcast I subscribed to on my PC — even a few which had never been configured to sync with the device.  I removed a couple of the subscriptions from the phone and was surprised to see them immediately delete from my PC as well.  Now Apple has decided that every podcast on your computer should also be on your phone — you couldn’t possibly be making use of their ‘only sync checked items’ functionality, or, maybe the ‘sync 5 least recent unplayed of selected podcasts’ functionality, right?

At this point, in order to stop iTunes and Apple from completely fucking my podcast library up nearly daily, I’ve had to unsubscribe from all podcasts in iTunes, manually re-download the podcasts I wanted to keep, force configure iTunes and my iPhone 5S to never delete podcasts under any circumstance — and it still fucking does it every other goddamned day.

So, here’s how syncing and listening to podcasts works on iOS7:

  1. n1ckn4m3 subscribes to podcasts in iTunes.
  2. The Nebuchadnezzar fires its EMP, killing the sentinels and 30-pin dock connectivity.
  3. A dimensional rift is created on n1ckn4m3’s HDD which grows to encompass a random selection of individual podcast episodes and full podcast subscriptions.
  4. Steve Jobs’s ghost is fed n1ckn4m3’s podcasts for sustenance in the afterlife.

In closing, fuck you Apple, seriously.  You’re bad at this and you should fucking feel bad.  I’m sad that I couldn’t hack it with Android or Windows Phone enough to get the fuck away from you.  At least you used to pretend you were the elegant phone OS where ‘everything just worked (TM)’.  Now you’re just as bad as Android with “one guy somewhere decided this feature would be better if it worked this obtusely specific way that fit his needs and only his needs, so your fucking podcasts are deleted and your car stereo can fuck off.  P.S. eat a dick.”

Grumble.  Now go away.