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Problems Syncing and Downloading Podcasts on iOS
By Jesse Hollington | 11.06.12

Q: The last few paragraphs of your article on Auto-deleting Episodes in iOS Podcasts App refer to things not working as expected and some syncing and downloading issues. I’m experiencing this and thought I could fix them by unsubscribing in iTunes and only maintaining the subscription within the Podcast app, but that didn’t seem to help. I suspect there’s a file somewhere, either on the phone or on my MacBook that’s screwing things up. Short of completely uninstalling iTunes on the MacBook and the Podcast app on the phone, then reinstalling and starting from scratch, is there any way to get the app to behave the way I tell it to via its settings for sync and save?

- Scott

A: It is unlikely that there is anything in iTunes on your MacBook that is causing problems with your iOS device, although you should ensure that you have actually disabled Podcast syncing entirely from iTunes, as opposed to simply unsubscribing. To do this, go into your Podcasts settings for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and ensure that the Sync Podcasts option is completely unchecked.

This will effectively break the connection between iTunes and your iOS device for handling podcasts, removing any podcast episodes that were previously transferred onto your device via iTunes, although you can of course simply re-download those manually in the Podcasts app directly. Any new episodes downloaded by the Podcasts app on your device will also no longer be transferred back to iTunes automatically.

The problem here is that if a Podcast subscription is still being synced from iTunes, the Podcasts app will assume that it should get new content via iTunes rather than automatically syncing new content over-the-air. This happens regardless of whether you are actually subscribed to the Podcast in iTunes, as the subscription status isn’t actually communicated between iTunes and your iOS device.

If this doesn’t solve the problem by itself, it may still be necessary to either toggle auto-downloading off and back on within the affected podcast subscription(s) or remove them from the app entirely and resubscribe. As a worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to delete the Podcasts app entirely and start over from scratch, but this shouldn’t normally be the case. You definitely shouldn’t need to worry about reinstalling iTunes on your MacBook, since as long as you’re not syncing Podcasts to your device, iTunes otherwise has no effect on the Podcasts app or its content.

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