Apple needs to bring its Podcast app and subscription model to Android

Apple Podcasts Android Hero
Apple Podcasts Android Hero (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

A few weeks ago, Apple made a bit of a splash with its announcements about its new AirTags trackers as well as updates to the iPad Pro and iMac, but it also announced significant changes to one of its more popular "services" — podcasts. Apple doesn't own podcasting per se, but it does deserve a ton of credit for the way it has nurtured and popularized the platform for millions of users around the world over the past decade and a half.

At the Spring Loaded event, Apple unveiled a new design for its Podcasts app to go along with its new Apple Podcast Subscriptions service. Apple Podcast Subscriptions are rolling out to Apple customers across iOS and macOS this month, and no one is quite sure how creators or consumers will receive them. Personally, I'm expecting it to be a big hit. Still, I do think that Apple should bring both its Podcasts app and Podcast Subscriptions to Android sooner rather than later if it truly wants to maximize the service's potential.

Apple and cross-platform services

Apple TV+

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

At first blush, it might seem strange to think about Apple bringing its Podcasts platform to Android. We've all had suspicions that it has preferred to keep its best services to itself, a notion that has been publicly reinforced thanks to testimony coming out of the Epic Games vs. Apple trial this past week. And yet, while Apple is often lambasted for luring customers into its beautiful walled garden and locking them in, it actually has a somewhat surprising track record of bringing its services to different platforms, operating systems, and hardware providers.

Believe it or not, Apple actually has a track record of bringing its apps and services across different platforms.

You can go back to the 80s and early 90s with Apple software running on Mac clones, or even the early 2000s when iTunes first appeared on a phone — not on the original iPhone, but on the Moto ROKR. Back in 2014, Apple purchased Beats Music, which was already available on Android, and turned it into the wildly successful Apple Music platform. It could have killed the Android app then and there, but it wisely chose not only to leave it on Android but made it feel like a nice combination of Apple's UI merged with Android aestetics. For years you've been able to access many of Apple's apps like Pages, Notes, and Mail on iCloud via any web browser. And most recently, Apple has partnered with smart TV manufacturers of all stripes, including Amazon, Roku, and even Samsung, to bring its Apple TV+ app and subscription service to more users on more platforms (I even use it on my Fire TV Stick 4K!).

So maybe Apple Podcasts and Podcast Subscriptions on Android isn't such a weird idea after all. I'm certainly not the only one who thinks so.

It's not a matter of if, but when

Spotify Podcasts

Source: Spotify (Image credit: Source: Spotify)

For many, Apple is synonymous with podcasts. Its podcast directory is the largest of its kind, and the company has been the de facto steward for the medium for over 15 years. Heck, even the name podcast is partially derived from the iPod. But as dominant as Apple is and has been, the times they are a'changing.

"Apple has kind of been this caretaker of podcasting for a long time," said Stephen Hackett, co-founder of the tech and Apple-focused podcast network Relay FM. "Apple has had all this power but hasn't really done much with it which has been fine by those of us in the industry."

Despite Apple's history with podcasting, Hackett and others see the tea leaves that Apple is reading and understand why it is making the moves it is making now with Podcast Subscriptions. Even though there are a ton of great podcast apps already, bigger players like Spotify and Amazon have been doing everything they can to consolidate their hold on the medium and monetize it through subscription services and ads. This has included building more tools for creators to create, distribute, and monetize their podcasts, as well as acquiring content producers like Wondery and Gimlet Media.

Apple can't afford to lose further ground in podcasting to Spotify.

"I think Apple's position is all of the sudden not as concrete as it could have been," said Hackett. "There's analyst research showing that Spotify will be bigger than the Apple Podcast platform in terms of listenership in the next few years. I don't think Apple wants to cede podcasting to companies like Spotify."

Hacket also said that he fully expects Apple to bring its podcasting platform to Android for two reasons. "One — to battle Spotify, and Two — to open the door to the Apple Podcast Subscriptions on this whole other ecosystem that they're not in currently. I think both reasons are valid individually, but I think that when you put both together, it just makes a lot of sense for them to do that."

As Hackett mentions, bringing Apple Podcasts and Podcast Subscriptions to Android (and other platforms) is not just about making more money through recurring subscription revenue. It's about preserving Apple's position as podcasting's gatekeeper. For these reasons, I fully expect Apple to make moves in this direction sooner rather than later, and other analysts agree.

"I don't see what Apple has to lose in doing so, given that there are no unique experiences you get from iOS devices and opening up to Android will give them a larger audience," said Carolina Milanesi, President and Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies.

How will it happen?

Apple Music Replay

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

While the insiders I spoke to agreed that Apple probably would (or at least should) bring Podcasts and Podcast Subscriptions to Android, there wasn't a consensus on what form it might take.

Some think it makes more sense for Apple to keep the Podcasts and Music apps separate on Android, while others think it wiser to combine the two as Spotify and Amazon do.

Some strongly believe that Apple will keep Podcasts separate from the Apple Music app. "I think Apple thinks of podcasts and music as separate things," said Hackett. "We can see proof of that in that they redid the Podcasts app in iOS 14.5... a huge overhaul, and I think if they were going to be merging them into one platform that we wouldn't see that sort of investment from them on the Podcasts app." More than the redesign, though, Hackett says combining the two apps on Android muddies Apple's services play. "From the services perspective, it's a mixed message if you can pay for Apple Music, but then you have podcasts in the same application. I think keeping them separate keeps the business model a little more clear in the minds of consumers."

Others like Milanesi disagree, thinking that incorporating Podcasts into Apple Music on Android makes more sense to better bolster both services. She says that she thinks that if Apple brings Podcasts over to Android that it will not be in a "dedicated podcast app but rather as part of Apple Music in order to compete more directly with Spotify's current offering." Milanesi says that "doing so will lower the amount of work for Apple and will add value to Apple Music" on Android.

Either way, if Apple wants to fend off competitors like Spotify and Amazon in the podcast space, it needs to be where the majority of mobile users are, and that is on Android. As Hackett told me, "Apple Podcast Subscriptions content is only available in the Apple Podcast player. You can't purchase content through Apple Podcasts and listen to it in something like PockeCasts." It's a potentially huge revenue stream for Apple, and there doesn't seem to be any real competitive disadvantages or proprietary features that would make the company pause. So let's have it then — bring Apple Podcasts and Podcast Subscriptions to Android!

What do you think? Do you expect Apple Podcasts to come to Android? Would you pay to support your favorite creators or shows through that specific app? Let us know!

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Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.

  • Their podcast app was one of the best I've used during an IPhone try. Google's app comes close but still not as easy to find stuff I want. Spotify is the worst of the bunch.
  • If you are a knowledgeable podcast listener you won’t be using Apple podcast crap app. You’ll be using Overcast, PocketCasts or million other great third party podcast app ecosystem.
  • You mention Apple TV as one of Apple's successful cross platform initiatives but the Apple TV app is not on the Play Store - a big miss on Apple's part that would cover Android phones, tablets and TVs if it was available.
  • There are things that Apple distributes to diversify its subscription services, and those that it likes to retain to add value to their own ecosystem. We've heard recently, iMessage is one of the latter. Apple Music the former. Apple TV while being integrated in many devices, like TVs, may not benefit much from being on Android. It's a Movie/TV service, that really wants to be viewed on a larger device. There are Android tablets and Google TVs, but maybe their penetration isn't enough to let go of the ecosystem draw. Podcasts on the other hand are designed for mobile devices and the Android market would be hard to ignore. I'm sure there is a whole division at Apple running numbers to see what makes sense, i.e. what will increase the bottom line.
    P.S. It's not a walled garden, it's a gated community ;)
  • And "successful" is being very generous That haven't come close to generating the desirability factor of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime , HBO Max and Disney + Heck I think Peacock has garnered more interest.
    NO ONE is saying "OMG we have to get Apple TV + because we need to watch _______. What See? or Planet of the Apps? What is it with Tech Bloggers trying to make these Apple products a "Thnkg" it's like trying to create your own self fulfilling prophecy.
  • That's a great point. I was thinking about Apple TV on streaming TV sticks/boxes/sets, but you're absolutely right that it should be on Android proper too.
  • Oh my goodness, who cares, I'm not trying be chest thumping Android fanboy here, but honestly who cares. The only people that care about iMessage are tech bloggers some apple fanboys. Everyone else is either happy using Google Messages, What's App.or FB Messenger As far as Apple Podcast? Again who cares, Google Podcast does well, as does the all the other places to get podcast. What does Apple Podcast do that make you people drool? I'm being serious, why should we care?
  • Why do we care? Well 9 out of every 10 people I know use iMessage on iPhone. 8 of those 9 will not change to Whatsapp, FB Messenger, or Google Messenger. They don't care because 9 out of 10 of their friends/family use iPhones and they don't have issues sharing videos or photos with each other. That is why some of us care. I know this is more of a US issue but it's still an issue. Try convincing a family member or friend that they need to download, sign up and use another messaging service when theirs just works for them. I don't know why the aggressive comment. You are acting like an Android Fanboy here. Android's messaging has been hosed since the start. Then again I could just disown my friends and family on iPhone.
  • I also have a lot of friends and family that use iMessage, I can not think of one instant where our communication broke down. and I'm guessing you can't either. I share video, photos, links Gifs emoji's etc. and nobody cares about green bubbles beyond 12 year old girls. It's a tired excuse that has no basis in reality. and besides if they are on Facebook, they don't have to switch to FB messenger, it's automatic. And nobody has to switch anything. for video chatting nobody has an issue using Duo, they just download the app on their iPhone and iPad If I calll them it rings.
  • The sent from devices get downgraded to unwatchable when someone on an iPhone sends it to me or I send them something. This is normal for any media sent through text through a carrier. One friend wasn't even getting text messages on his OnePlus on T-Mobile. Half the time I wouldn't get group messages from iPhone until hours later on a Note Ultra on At&t. This has nothing to do with green vs blue bubbles. We are all adults in our 40s. No one care about the color of a bubble. We just want it to work. It currently doesn't. Are we on Facebook? Most of the group is. Do we use it, no. We aren't, as you describe 12 year old girls. It is okay to admit that there are a few things Apple does better than android. That thing is messaging. You don't have to download a separate app or get anyone to sign up. It's already there on every phone.
  • but what does imessage do better than Google messages though, all things being equal, iphone to iphone and google message to google messages. What does iMessage do better now that Google messages is using RCS? both send high res. video and photos to each other.. both have large selection of different emoticon's if that's your thing, both show when someone is typing, both can send messages over wifi ... share locations, share contacts, not sure if you can do that on iMessage. use the voice recorder, again not sure if iMessage does that or not. heck Google Messages incorporates Google assistant in terms of the abilit show restaurants , movies the weather ect. with each other, Not sure how much Siri can do on iMessage. I'm curious what does this iMessage service that was created by the Elves of Rivendale do that's is so much better.
  • Google Message to Google Messages is great. iMessage to iMessage is great. Google Message to iMessage or iMessage to Google Message is not great. RCS is not a feature on iMessage/iPhone so those videos get downgraded. Google had to go around carries to get it implemented because the carriers wouldn't. I can agree that Google Messages and it's features are great for me but only when I'm talking to another Android phone using Google Messages. All 3 of them from my family, friends and beer league hockey team. I never said iMessage was better. The problem is iMessage is the more prevalent (at least in the US) and that doesn't work for us Android users.
  • but that's on Apple, though, they don't have to bring iMessage over to android but if they open up to an industry standard, as hopefully RCS will be then that would solve everything.
  • The Apple Podcast app is garbage. Pocket Casts is where it's at and that is for both iOS and Android.
  • I agree that PocketCasts is legit!
  • I really don't care about Apple podcasts, I'm happy with Google Podcasts. Apple can stick their podcasts app.