3 Ways to Listen to Apple Watch Podcasts Without An iPhone

Away from your phone? Catch a podcast anyway

Using Apple Watch while running
Using Apple Watch while running.

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Apple Watch owners haven’t been able to easily listen to podcasts without their iPhone nearby. As the Apple Watch gains more abilities, however, developers are taking the lead to create apps which allow you to go for a run and listen to podcasts on the watch with Bluetooth headphones. Below are several apps to help you listen to podcasts without carrying your iPhone around. 

What Can You Do With an Apple Watch

For those curious, the current limitations of using the Apple Watch as an iPod replacement is the connection bandwidth and battery life. It can take a while to use Bluetooth to transfer a podcast episode to the watch and it uses a lot of its battery doing so.

Being careful with the watch’s battery life is the primary reason Apple has been cautious with this functionality before watchOS 5; as battery life improves and data connections become faster, side-loading podcast episodes will become less taxing on the device.

How to Listen To Podcasts Directly on Apple Watch

Apple Watch owners gain native support for listening to podcasts directly on their wrists with the addition of the Apple Podcasts app in watchOS 5; the new app is capable of playing and downloading episodes directly to the watch app.

In general, watchOS 5 adds more support for listening to podcasts with just the Apple Watch, which native Apple apps and third-party apps will also benefit from. However, Apple Watch owners using watchOS 4 and lower aren’t out of luck just yet.

Use These Apps to Listen to Podcasts Directly on Apple Watch

MiniCast

Opening MiniCast iPhone app
Opening MiniCast iPhone app. ​

MiniCast is a simple and dedicated app, designed to get podcasts directly onto the Apple Watch. While it’s free to download, it’s not free to use; you’ll need to pay $3.99 to send podcasts to your Apple Watch.

When the app is first launched, it will show an overview of how to use the share button in a variety of podcast apps like Overcast, Apple Podcasts, and Castro, to send specific episodes to the MiniCast Apple Watch app.

Once purchased inside the phone app, the next thing you’ll want to do is make sure the MiniCast app shows up on your Apple Watch. If it doesn't follow these steps.

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your phone.
  2. Scroll down to MiniCast.
  3. Tap MiniCast.
  4. Swipe the Display on Apple Watch toggle to enable it.

To add a podcast to your Apple Watch:

  1. Open your podcast app of choice on your iPhone.
  2. Select an episode.
  3. Tap the Share button, which looks like a square with an arrow pointing out.
  4. Tap Send Podcast To Watch; you may need to swipe left to see it.

Once an episode has been sent to the watch, open the MiniCast watch app again. Tap the episode to download it to the watch’s internal storage. This part can be very slow, but after it’s completed you can pair Bluetooth headphones directly to your watch and leave your phone behind.

What We Like

  • A dedicated app for performing a simple function.

What we don’t like

  • Sending podcasts to an Apple Watch can be really slow.
  • Must listen in MiniCast app, meaning Overcast users can't utilize Overcast's Smart Speed feature.
  • First-time use can be a little complicated.
  • $3.99 can be a deterrent.

Workouts++

Workouts++ iPhone app
Workouts++ iPhone app.

You're not wrong if you think Workouts++ doesn’t sound like a podcast app. There was a loophole in the developer guidelines which allowed workout apps to gain advanced media playing functionality on Apple Watch. The idea being people want to listen to music or podcasts while working out, allowing workout apps to enable playback directly from Apple Watch.

After downloading, if you don’t see Workouts++ appear on your Apple Watch automatically, you can add it using the Apple Watch app on your phone. 

  1. To get podcasts on your watch with Workouts++, start with the phone app.
  2. Tap Podcasts, found in the lower menu, then tap the Plus (+) in the top left corner.
  3. Search for a desired podcast.
  4. Once you add one or more podcast subscriptions, you’ll be able to stream them directly from the watch app.
  5. To download episodes to the watch app, tap an episode to begin the download and transfer process.

Inside the Workouts++ watch app, you’ll need to start a workout to see your podcast episodes. After selecting a workout, you can slide the screen to the left to see downloaded and streamable episodes. Tap an episode to listen.

What We Like:

  • Plenty of functionality without being overly complex.
  • Free.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Starting podcasts can be slow.

Apple Podcasts

Apple Podcasts app
Apple Podcasts app. Apple

Starting in watchOS 5, the Apple Podcasts app will be available. Apple Podcast app users will see their subscriptions sync automatically and be able to stream or download episodes without the need for their phone.

What We Like:

  • Seamless integration.
  • Streaming and downloading capability.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Streaming function isn’t available for third-party developers and their apps.
  • Doesn’t have as many features as other podcast apps.