Q: Have you tried Apple’s Podcasts app? Having trouble getting it to auto-delete played episodes.
– Paul (via Twitter)
A: In order for auto-deletion of Podcast episodes to work in the new Podcasts app, you need to be subscribed to the Podcast in question directly inside the app and you must have enabled automatic downloading for that Podcast. The options for a given Podcast can be accessed by tapping on the title of the Podcast in episode view, which will present a series of cascading options—the Auto-Download option only appears if the Subscription option is enabled, and Episodes to Keep is only available if Auto-Download is enabled.
Choosing to keep “All Unplayed Episodes” will automatically remove any episode that you fully listen to within a few seconds after you finish listening to it. Note, however, that this will only remove the copy of the episode that has been downloaded to your device; the episode itself will remain visible on the episode listing, but the download icon will reappear to its right, indicating that it is no longer on your device.
Also keep in mind that you must listen to an episode through to the end for it to be considered “Played” and thereby automatically deleted; partially-played episodes are shown with a semi-circular blue dot beside them.
Further, if you choose to download an episode that is already marked as played, that episode will be kept on your device; since you specifically requested that individual episode it wouldn’t make much sense for the Podcasts app to delete it immediately after it finishes downloading. However, listening to the episode will not automatically remove it in this case, however you can delete it manually when you’ve finished with it simply by using a swipe-to-delete gesture.
Unfortunately, the auto-deletion feature doesn’t work as expected if you have subscribed to a Podcast directly within the Podcasts app and you are also syncing the same Podcast from your iTunes library. In this case, although it appears to remain set in the Podcasts app, the Episodes to Keep setting is ignored. Instead, the Podcast sync settings specified for your device in iTunes are enforced whenever you sync your device with your computer, in much the same way as Podcasts worked prior to the release of the Podcasts app.
In fact, many of the new features of the Podcasts app do not appear to be fully enabled for Podcasts that are synced from your iTunes library. This includes not only the automatic download and deletion features, but also wireless synchronization of Podcast playback status and positions. In short, if you’re syncing a Podcast on via iTunes, the app seems to rely on iTunes to continue handling all of this. Ideally, you should choose only one synchronization method for a given Podcast—either iTunes or downloading directly over-the-air.
Note that although Podcasts downloaded to your device are copied back to iTunes, this is simply a one-way copy operation; transferred Podcasts are not automatically selected for synchronization, although they will be included if you have set iTunes to sync ALL Podcasts to your device rather than only selected Podcasts (or none at all).
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that in our own experience with the new Podcasts app, we have observed a number of inconsistencies, particularly related to synchronization and downloading behaviour—problems that seem to occur with increasing frequency when combining iTunes-synced Podcasts with on-device subscriptions, even after disabling iTunes sync. Sadly, it’s clear that Apple still has some bugs to work out in this initial release.