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Apple launches new podcast app for iOS

Apple has released a standalone podcast app that provides one-stop access to the podcasts currently available via iTunes.

The app, accessible on devices running iOS 5.1 and higher, includes "hundreds of thousands" of podcasts in 40 languages, Apple said. To help narrow it down, a Top Stations feature will group podcasts according to topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports and more.

Users can also view by audio or video shows and view the most popular selections in Top Charts.

When you find a favourite, tap "subscribe" to automatically receive new episodes as they become available. Podcasts can be streamed or downloaded for offline listening.

A Sleep Timer, meanwhile, provides the option of shutting off a podcast at a certain time while listening in bed, while social features allows for sharing via Twitter, Messages and Mail. With iCloud, favourite episodes can be synced from iTunes (10.6.3) on your PC with seamless playback.

When you first open the podcast app, two menus appear on the bottom: Podcasts and Top Stations. The Podcasts section will initially be empty until you start subscribing to specific shows. To find podcasts, tap the "catalog" button, which will take you to an App Store-esque screen with Featured podcasts, top charts and a search function. If you're not sure what you want, Top Stations provides podcasts by category; swipe left to switch categories and up or down within a category.

A button at the top enables you to toggle between audio and video podcasts.

Reports of a standalone podcast app first cropped up earlier this month, when developers found that the podcast link was missing in the next version of iTunes.

Podcast support in iTunes was first discussed by Steve Jobs in 2005 during an appearance at the All Things Digital conference.