Today’s Apple Feedback: Siri’s clumsy podcast handling

The best place to podcast, in my opinion, is while you’re driving on a long trip. Podcasts keep me awake and alert when I am traveling between radio station coverage areas. But tapping through the podcast app is a no-no while driving. I recently was on a solitary road trip.  I didn’t have my wife there to play the podcasts as she usually does, so in steps Siri to help me control my podcasts. Here are some of the frustrating difficulties I ran into along the way. This is Today’s Apple Feedback:

I was listening to podcasts during a drive…

1. Siri forgot I have the latest podcast app installed after having paused playback:
noappheresapp

2. Siri hears me say “Play the Radio Lab podcast” and then tells me she can’t find a podcast named “Lab”. I must say “Play podcast quote radio lab end quote” to get it to work.
3. If you ask Siri to play a podcast that is unsubscribed or has a red ‘e’ on the only listed episodes, Siri says “Playing podcast…” and never plays anything without catching the error.
4. If I play a podcast, it goes through aux, but after using BT, podcasts end up on the headset and can only switch back by replugging aux wire.

1. As you can see in my feedback, I was happily listening to podcasts which Siri was kind enough to start for me. But at some point, I had asked Siri to pause playback, and the next time I asked Siri to resume, or play the podcast again, Siri informed me that I don’t have the latest podcast app installed! I thought, “Wow, they issued a required update in the past 15 minutes since I last got Siri to play a podcast?!”, so I looked on the app store update page and there was no update there for the podcast app.  I then searched for the podcast app, and it showed that it was installed and up to date!  I don’t know what Siri was complaining about, so I just had to resort to initiating podcasts via touch.

2. Apparently, the word “Radio” is, what we call in the programming profession, a “reserved word”. Siri assumes that “Radio” is not a part of the title of a podcast. I tried numerous times to get Siri to play the Radio Lab podcast before attempting the quote-trick.  She had correctly heard me say “Radio Lab”, but refuse to search for a podcast named anything other than “Lab”.

3. Usually, when we’re on a trip, we use my wife’s iPhone to play podcasts, so a number of my subscribed podcasts had gone stale and stopped updating.  Some had an orange circular badge with a white exclamation point in the upper right corner of the podcast icon. Other podcasts’ old episodes had little red squares on them with a white ‘E’:

photo

It seems that because of one or both of these issues, the podcasts would not play without manually touching the cloud/download icon.  However, Siri happily said “Playing podcast…” without informing me of any error.  At first, I thought that it was an issue of the audio being routed through the wrong device (headset versus headphones port), but upon asking, Siri informed me that no podcast was currently playing. I did note that using the download button and then tapping an episode to play it would initiate a buffering period, perhaps even a minute long, but I ruled out that as what was happening when using Siri to play an episode by waiting several minutes for an episode to start playing.

Ideally, Siri would see that a podcast had been unsubscribed or that none of the current episodes could be played and either inform me of a problem, or offer to re-subscribe to the podcast and retrieve the most recent episode.

4. I was having other issues with Siri-controlled podcasts. Numerous times, I somehow ended up with podcasts being routed through my bluetooth headset.  They had started out by default going through the wire plugged into the headphones port even though I had the BT headset on and paired.  When the audio unexpectedly switched, I could turn the headset off and audio would go back to the headphones port, but as soon as I turned the headset back on, it would default back to the headset. Eventually, I figured out that I just needed to unplug & replug the audio wire in the headphones port.  It seems that there should be a way to tell the podcast app which audio to use.  In fact, telling the phone which audio to use should be a feature universal to all audio apps (& Siri).  I’m all the time switching the audio for Siri and other apps because the defaults tend to be not what I want.  I even try to tell Siri that I want to send the audio to my headset or through the headphones, but Siri doesn’t know how to handle that request.  We need more control over the audio and its defaults.

If anyone else has had any of these issues, I’d be curious to know how you’ve surmounted them?  I’m still on iOS 7, so I’d also be interested to know if Siri and/or the podcast app have improved in iOS 8.

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