In previous versions of the Music and Podcasts App in iOS, the default behaviors enabled the user to very quickly get thier content playing without much effort up front, or maintenence effort. This was effective for hands-free situations, such as a workout, doing yard work, bicycling, driving, and others. Hitting play in control center or the App would resume where you left off, and continue through the unplayed content without user intervention.
When the new Music app arrived a few years ago, the focus on Apple Music as a service changed the behavior, removing some of this functionality entirely, and hiding other parts of it, requiring many actions and visits to unintuitive and unexplained parts of the UI to facilitate playing a playlist of music that is wholly owned and downloaded to the device already. The shuffle function didn't even appear for the listing for Downloaded Music, so each selected song played once and stopped, without naturally traversing to the next song in the list. It appeared that the focus on the new music subscription service was so great that the essential job of the Music app—the ones that made it effective especially in the user contexts recieving attention in other areas—was actually severely downgraded, and went from simple and graceful to frustrating, obtuse, and ineffective at just playing the music. Thankfully, the last revision to the Music app restored enough of what was—if you know where to look for it—to at least get its job back.
in iOS 11, many of the built-ins have deliberately adopted the style of Apple Music—a vaguely music magazine style presentation which is passable visually but a bit wasteful with premium screenspace on handheld devices, and features a font which lacks the elegence of the previous system font—and with the style, also comes the curious disregard for the basic functionality of the app especially with regard to the features it already had that support new focii currently being discussed and added and extended in other contexts: particularly hands-free use.
Podcasts now plays a single podcast, then stops. There is no facility in settings or the app itself to make it play a chain of podcasts. In order to trigger that podcast, you have to drill down into it. On the plus side, clicking a podcast episide presents the user with an extended description of the episode, which is nice. However, doing this is required just to play a single podcast, and it appears that in order to play more than one podcast at a time, for example, on the way to work, biking, working out, driving...the user must select each podcast episode and pop it onto the up next list. A user who is accustomed to just grabbing his or her phone and getting into the car, hitting play and putting the phone down to commute 1 hour to work is likely going to find themselves fiddling with their phone 3 minutes later, to try to trigger the next unplayed podcast. Asking Siri to play the next podcast generally fails silently. The solution that appears to be the intention of the designer is, the user before work must select the podcasts they want to play and add them to Up Next before leaving for work, and then at work before leaving work for the ride home...every single day.
With other areas recieving attention for hands free enhancement, how did the most basic version of it get removed from the most popular apps used in those contexts? The use cases that made the iPod and the iPhone so useful seem to have had a hit taken out on them by the mob. I read a preview of the Podcasts app by one of the Apple focused tech sites that said that the Listen Now tab in Podcasts is an upgraded version of the last versions Unplayed tab. That reviewer must never have used the app. Having to select each podcast episode, drill in, and select Play is laughably bad, and potentially dangerous. To add to that, once an episode is complete, the user doesn't even get crickets. They have to pick up the phone, back out of the played episode to get back to Listen Now, skip over the one they just played, select the next one to drill into it, and press Play. Hopefully they don't listen to a lot of Spoken Editions, because those are often 2 to 3 minutes long.
I read the release notes for the betas, fully expecting a message about the podcasts app not being complete, but there wasn't one. Does the team responsible for this have a design theory they can share with us that clarifies the decisions they've made with these apps lately and helps explain how they are intending they be used? Is the assumption that the user always has the phone screen up to thier face, or that the user should prepare thier podcasts Up Next list twice a day because the Beats guys think this is cute?