Apple Drops Skeumorphism Reel-to-Reel in Podcast App Update

| Product News

Smell that? That's the fruits of Jonny Ive ripening on the Apple tree. More specifically, Apple updated its Podcasts app for iPhone and iPad to version 1.2, and the update drops the reel-to-reel skeuomorphic interface for podcast playback.

Skeuomorphism is defined as the invocation of "an object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artifact in another material." This includes things like presenting a calendar with a leather cover and stitching in iCal and using a reel-to-reel player to handle podcast playback.

When Apple CEO Tim Cook terminated Scott Forstall and put Sir Jonathan Ive in charge of iOS interface design, many expected Apple to leave skeuomorphism behind. The Podcasts update is one of the first examples of that actually coming to fruition.

Here's what it used to look like:

Old Podcasts App Playback Screen

The Old Reel-to-Reel Podcast Playback Screen (for iPhone)

And here's what it looks like now. Note the handsome men in The Apple Context Machine's cover art:

The New Podcasts App Playback Screen

Whither the Reel-to-Reel? It's Gone!

  • Here are the full patch notes for the update:
  • Create custom stations of your favorite podcasts that update automatically with new episodes
  • Choose whether your stations begin playing with the newest or oldest unplayed episode
  • Your stations are stored in iCloud and kept up-to-date on all of your devices
  • Create an On-The-Go playlist with your own list of episodes
  • Playlists synced from iTunes now appear in the Podcasts app
  • The Now Playing view has been redesigned with easier to use playback controls
  • Addressed an issue with resuming playback when returning to the app
  • Additional performance and stability improvements

Podcasts is a free download from the App Store. The new version is available now.

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not a fan of the old reel to reel but not happy with this direction

not clear what is on my device and what is in the cloud - bad if I dont want to do big downloads when I’m not on wifi

i listen to music podcasts and the ability to ‘jog’ around is really needed - especially in the lock screen. ok it neednt be a dial but a slider would suffice…

Lee Dronick

I for one like skeuomorphism. Of course it can be overdone, but it can also be underdone.


DO NOT like this new interface… Way too boring and looks like a ‘me too’ lazy design. SUX…

Ari Moor

the non skeuomorphic version look like crap.  The reel to reel tape deck is what made it so unique and fun to use.  This really sucks. 

One lousy designer starts bashing skeuomorphic design and a day later every blogger that has nothing original to write copies the trend.


The open reel deck was a bit silly (what, no wax cylinder?), but I don’t know why they had to get rid of the mechanical button appearance. The icons seem awkwardly spaced and small, which makes it seem like you have to tap exactly on a tiny target instead of anywhere on a larger “button.”


This update totally ruined the app. Looks like crap and has no way to see where you are in the podcast and no sleep timer button. POS
I will be looking for something better with more functionality.


@hp: If you tap on the podcast artwork, a control bar pops up with the position marker plus buttons for playback speed, sleep timer, and sharing options. It would be nice if there were some visual indication that those things exist, but I guess they are relying on our training (not intuition) from other iOS apps.


The reel-to-reel interface (which was under the covers: a flick lifted the podcast art to reveal the tape deck, which otherwise lay hidden) was utterly charming. Playful. A nod to the past. The change to abolish it is hard-hearted, as far as I’m concerned. The triumph of ideology over fun.

As an avid Apple user, I deplore this direction.


I have to admit that this specific case is not that offensive to me (heck, I own two *actual* reel-to-reel decks), but I will happily accept this direction if it means we will soon be rid of the absurdity that is OS X’s Calendar and Contacts. I don’t see how that Calendar UI ever got past Steve Jobs. I guarantee if SJ had a real paper calendar in his home or office, he did not leave torn bits of previous months’ pages attached at the top.


I loved the tape deck.  I thought it was a fun throwback.  If I’d known an update was going to remove it I’d've let it be.  Wish I could switch back.


Well, I found a workaround. I had done the update to the newer version on the phone, so I deleted the app entirely from the phone and then reinstalled from the version stored in iTunes on the computer. Voila! I have the tape deck back. smile

Now I just have to never apply the update to the app again.

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