How to Download and Subscribe to Podcasts

Get hours of free content on your iPhone

woman listening to podcast on headpones

Aeriform & Maria Teijeiro /Getty Images

A world of hilarious, fascinating, thought-provoking, silly, and free audio programs is available in the iTunes Store and on the iPhone. These programs, called podcasts, offer a virtually endless library of quality listening. All you need is to learn how to get and use them.

What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is an audio program, like a radio show, posted to the internet to download and listen to using iTunes or your iOS device. Podcasts vary in their level of professional production. Some podcasts are downloadable versions of professional radio programs like NPR's "Fresh Air," while others are produced by just a person or two, like Karina Longworth's "You Must Remember This." Anyone with audio recording and editing tools can make and distribute a show.

Podcasts cover practically any subject people are passionate about, including sports, comic books, literature, relationships, current events, and movies. Most are free to download and listen to. Some offer paid versions that include bonus features.

Marc Maron's "WTF," for instance, offers the 60 most recent episodes for free; if you want access to the other 800+ in the archive and listen without ads you pay a small, yearly subscription. Dan Savage's "Savage Love" is always free, but an annual subscription gives you access to episodes that are twice as long and cuts ads. If you find a podcast you love, you may be able to support it and get bonuses too.

Finding and Downloading Podcasts in iTunes

The largest podcast directory in the world is in the iTunes Store. To find and download podcasts, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the iTunes program on your desktop or laptop computer.

  2. Select Podcasts from the drop-down menu in the top left corner.

    How to find podcasts dropdown screenshot
  3. Click the Store menu at the top center of the window if you aren't already there.

    How to find podcasts in iTunes scfreenshot
  4. You can search for shows by name or topic here using the search box in the upper-right corner. You can also browse the recommendations on the front page, click the All Categories drop-down on the right to filter by topic, or browse the charts and features.

    How to subscribe to podcasts in iTunes screenshot
  5. Once you've found a podcast you're interested in, click it. On the podcast's page, you'll see information about it and a list of all available installments. To stream an episode, click the play button that appears when you mouse over its title. To download, click the Get button on the right.

    How to download podcasts on iTunes schreenshot
  6. Episodes you download will appear on the Library tab.

How to Subscribe to Podcasts in iTunes

If you want to get every new episode of a podcast when it comes out, subscribe to it using iTunes or an app on your iPhone. With a subscription, iTunes or your iPhone will download new episodes as they release. Subscribe by following these steps:

  1. On the podcast's page, click the Subscribe button beneath its cover art.

    How to subscribe to podcasts in iTunes screenshot
  2. In the pop-up window, click Subscribe to confirm the subscription.

    How to subscribe to podcasts screenshot
  3. Click the Library menu, and then click on the podcast you just subscribed to.

    How to subscribe to podcasts in iTunes screenshot
  4. Click Settings to adjust how many episodes you download, the order in which iTunes plays them, and whether to automatically delete ones you've listened to.

    How to subscribe to podcasts screenshot
  5. Click Unsubscribe to stop downloading episodes as they come out. The ones you've already downloaded will stay on your computer.

How to Delete Podcasts in iTunes

You can keep episodes after you've listened to them, but to delete the files, here's how:

  1. In the Library section of iTunes, click the episode you want to remove.

    How to download podcasts in iTunes screenshot
  2. Right-click and select Delete From Library or Remove Download. The first option will completely remove the item. The second will take its data off of your computer but leave it in your Library so you can stream it later.

    You can also press the Delete key on the keyboard.

    How to delete podcasts in iTunes screenshot
  3. In the pop-up window, click Delete to confirm.

Finding and Downloading Podcasts in the Apple Podcasts App

If you get your podcasts via iTunes, you can sync episodes to iPhone or iPod Touch. You might prefer to skip iTunes completely and get episodes delivered right to your device. Apple includes a Podcasts app pre-installed with the iOS that lets you do this. To use it to get podcasts, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the app to open it. Use the Browse tab to see lists of popular shows and creators. To find something specific, tap Search and enter your search terms in the box.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  2. When you find a show you're interested in, tap it to see a list of available episodes. Tap an episode description to start playing it in the app. To download one, tap the + icon, and then tap the download icon (the cloud with the down arrow).

    On iPhone 6S and later, use 3D Touch to open the menu by pressing on the display.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  3. Episodes you download will appear on the Library tab. Tap Episodes to see the ones you've chosen. Tap Sort on that screen to arrange them either alphabetically or by the date you added them.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  4. Tap an episode to play it.

How to Subscribe and Unsubscribe to Podcasts in the Apple Podcasts App

To subscribe to a podcast in the Podcasts app and get new episodes as they become available:

  1. On a show's info page, tap the Subscribe button. An alert will appear confirming your subscription.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  2. In the Library menu, tap the show, tap the three-dot icon, and then tap Settings to control when episodes are downloaded, how many to keep, and the order in which the app will play them. Tap Done to save changes.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  3. To unsubscribe, tap the podcast to view the detail page. Tap the three-dot icon, and then tap Unsubscribe.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  4. Unsubscribing from a podcast keeps the episodes you've added to your library. It just won't download new ones.

How to Delete Podcasts in the Apple Podcasts App

To delete an episode in the Podcasts app

  1. On the Library tab, find the item you want to remove. Swipe left to right to reveal a Delete option, and then tap it to remove the episode.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  2. You can also go to the show's page in the podcast catalog or your library, tap the three-dot icon, and then tap Delete from Library.

    Apple Podcasts app screenshot
  3. You don't have to unsubscribe before you delete a podcast from your library. Doing so will also unsubscribe you from it.

Great Third-Party Podcast Apps

While Apple's podcasts app comes with every iOS device, lots of third-party podcast apps are available with other features that you may prefer. Here are some apps you may want to check out: