Over the air podcasts gone from Windows Phone after Tango update?

Listening to podcasts on the go is one of my favorite pastimes, a great way to catch up with the latest news or a special interest. For those of us who reside outside of North America, podcast support has been a bit limited to say the least. Unlike our pals in the US, we cannot subscribe to podcasts through the marketplace on either Zune desktop software or directly using the phone. Annoying, but Mango at least introduced a half-workable solution. Unfortunately, after the Tango update it’s no longer possible to use that either.

To subscribe to podcasts prior to Tango, first we needed to set them up in the Zune desktop suite. Once subscribed, simply plugging in the phone and synchronising would pass the podcast to it. Podcasts would the automatically download without further PC interaction. Alas, this is now not the case. What’s going on?

Before, some conditions needed to be met to download over the air: the device had to be both plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi before the podcasts would update. Sometimes the device would not run the task to check for updates. Thankfully from the podcast menu we could manually check for updates, bringing up a list of podcasts. That would normally be enough of a kick to get the phone to check for updates. To be frank, this system wasn’t perfect but most of the time it would result in a recent podcast becoming available as you flew out the door.

Series settings and unsubscribe options available on a Mango device..

During the last week or so I managed to get the chance to resubscribe to my favorito podcasts on my Lumia 800 since applying the Tango update. I had a long car journey to get through and was quite excited to listen to a few podcasts along the way. I checked my device in the car only to find all the podcasts were out of date. "Ah ha!" I thought, "my car is close enough to the house to be on Wi-Fi. I can just plug it in and check for updates." No such luck. That ability is no longer there, so I cannot get the phone to check for later podcasts. In fact, it simply does not update the podcasts under any conditions.

Series settings options - Mango Device - Now you see them...

 

Why is podcast support on Windows Phone so bad when it should be so good?

Many of us have been asking this question almost since the arrival of Windows Phone. For a great many users, it is simply not possible to browse and subscribe to podcasts from the Marketplace. The Zune desktop software is geo-fenced. It’s possible to trick it into showing the elusive podcast support by changing the region, but a number of reasons make it an unworkable solution.  We have to ask the question, "why is Microsoft making it impossible to get easy access to podcasts?" If you look at iOS devices, they have outstanding podcast support. They use it as a positive selling point. I mean, what better way to sell devices than with the lure of free content?

and now you don't see them, no podcast options in Tango device...

Here in the UK, the BBC simply offers tons of amazing free content. The fruit themed company actively promotes this content to help bring value to their customers. The BBC also just released a dedicated app for podcasts, making browsing and subscribing to podcasts even easier. Do their customers love this? Yes! For some people it will be enough to bring them to the platform; it’s that good.

Podcast content from itunes - extensive

 

Why break the already limited podcast support?

I cannot understand the decision to further break podcast support in Windows Phone. If the platform is updating soon, surely tthe feature set should increase rather than decrease. From an OS level, it has needlessly become impossible to automatically retrieve updates to subscribed podcasts over the air. What is so bad about podcasts that Microsoft have gone out of their way to remove even the most basic of features? Perhaps the devices were not adhering to the Wi-Fi rule when getting new podcasts, leading to unexpected data charges. If this was the case, then why not officially document the feature's removal? Of course there is always the possibility Microsoft never intended to allow this type of behavior on Mango devices. What possible reason could they have to justify such a move though? As subscribing is a wholly manual affair for those outside the US it should present no legal issues, right?

While investigating I came across this article (opens in new tab) on the Windows Phone website. It clearly states that subscribing to podcasts on your phone is not available in all regions. Yes yes, we get that. Above that though it mentions the 256 MB of RAM requirement being needed to manage podcasts from the phone. Could the Tango update have introduced a bug that makes the music software think less memory is available? Maybe, but if that were the case then folks in the US would have noticed their over the air updates stop too. US readers, please let us know if you've experienced similar issues in the comments below.

 

Are there alternatives?

That depends on what you want to achieve. Sure, there are plenty of third party podcast apps... Some will run in the background, allowing you to leave the app without interrupting the download. Will any of them provide the same core OS reliability to keep running that task in the background? Unlikely. Windows Phone also has oddities in the way the music hub works for 3rd party content that doesn’t make it a seamless OS experience. It will need to launch the third party app itself in order to play the content.

 

Sounding off

Windows Phone 8 is on the way. With it, expanded scenarios for background downloading and listening could also come along. Whilst it’s a distant hope, it’s likely unrealistic to think MS will suddenly expand podcast support after crippling it in WP7.5. We only need to look at Windows 8 to see how highly MS regard podcasts: there is no podcast support at all built into the new PC OS.

Having to power up a PC to download podcasts and then sync them with a Windows Phone is cumbersome and inconvenient - an extra step where there doesn’t need to be one. The reality of the situation is that MS have made podcast support dip to such a low that users like me are forced to consider platform alternatives. Podcast support is incredibly important to my needs.

We would like to hear why podcast support has all but been dropped in Tango. We’d also like to know what you guys think about this situation. How on earth can we get Microsoft to take podcast support more seriously? Should the removal of a feature not be documented in some way? While we're at it, we’d love to know your solutions to these problems - be it third party apps or simply using another platform.

We've reached out to Microsoft for clarification on the issue. In the meantime, leave a comment and let us know what you think.

97 Comments
  • Im using the appo Podcasts Pro to stream my favs Podcasts with RSS feed
  • App :-)
  • Podcast support in the OS is not critical to me. A third party app, like Podcasts, fills in the gap well enough to me.
  • +1
  • I found podasts! too buggy... If the app didn't crash, it would refuse all podcasts include its suggestions. I have been using slapdash with great success.
  • My thoughts exactly Robert. Had I have known about this I wouldn't have updated to Tango. This change made me annoyed, and also start to look at other platforms. If they don't rectify this in WP8 I'll be annoyed. Again. As a UK Lumia 800 user the Tango update brought me the ability to 'flip to silence' my phone - not something I'd want to do with a curved screen device - and lost me an important feature. I've emailed Microsoft the same questions and had no response. Excellent customer service. Maybe Windows Phone 8 will make you plug your phone into a PC to take a call next? Removing OS features from an update. Ridiculous.
  • I do agree with you it is something that MS needs to address since other platforms do not have this issue... With that said It do not bother me as much because I do enjoy using the third party app call Podcast Pro.
  • It must be a UK thing.  Everything is still working fine here in Virgina, USA. :-)  God Bless America!
  • It's not just a UK thing, my phone is downloading and streaming podcasts just as it did before Tango.  I think Robert has a problem with his phone in particular.
  • Windows Phone US != Windows Phone -US :( One more reason Microsoft is going to lose Windows Phone users outside the US. What's next Xbox music...
  • Actually, Robert, Tango is not supposed to break the podcast feature.  I have a Samsung Focus Flash recently updated to Tango, and I have seen absolutely no interruption with podcasts whatsoever.  In fact, my subscriptions and previously downloaded episodes were all still there.  I can stream a podcast over my data connection or a wifi connection.  And my subscriptions still update automatically when connected over WiFi.  Something is not right with your phone, or your particular Tango installation.  I think you need to check more into facts before jumping to conclusions.  You just caused thousands of users who read these articles to fear updating to Tango for no reason!
  • ctleng the facts in this article are absolutely correct, several of our community have contacted us regarding the problem, and I myself am facing exactly the same issue. It certainly does not affect every region, but here in the UK at least, I could subscribe/download podcasts with Mango, and I can't with the Tango update. Robert's is not an isolated case, this is a very widespread issue
  • Actually the facts are not correct.  He made a blanket statement that Tango breaks the podcast feature.  He even went so far as to assume the Microsoft made the decision to break this feature without verifying it first.  He should have worded it to say that it is known to break this feature for many users.  The way he worded it made it sound like Microsoft dropped support for podcasts altogether, which they did not.  I was merely correcting him on that point.  I don't dispute the fact that he and others are legitimately experiencing this issue.  I just wanted to clear the air that this is NOT universal among all users.
  • ctleng, the article makes it clear that this does not affect US users, as you are a US user I would hope you can identify that your experience will not have changed after Tango. For those of us in the UK (and most of Europe), the feature is gone after the Tango update.
  • This podcast debacle has been a known issue for many people, including me. If anything, you are unique in your situation. /Swedish Lumia 800 user.
  • that's the point. Once you have the podcast settings, they are there to stay forever. If, however, you add new podcasts to the device, you don't get these settings anymore. You can get them back using a temporary registry mod, but this still affects podcasts added to the device after the tango update (only in non-US countries, apparently).
  •   A registry mod? On the phone or on the computer? Could you explain? RB
  • That is not the case with my Tango installation either.  I CAN add new subscriptions and they work just fine.
  • I am pretty sure that your microsoft account/live profile is US, then, as people with US accounts can still do that. 
  •   Thanks for taking the time to comment, we do appreciate your feedback. This is one instance I would love to be proved wrong, re-flash my device and be back to normal… Unfortunately, its not just myself. If you could be so kind as to provide:- Device Type , OS version, Your Region, Carrier that would be really helpful. RB
  • Well, I have no problems downloading or subscribing to a Podcast here in the US on my Lumia 900 running Tango.  I think this may be a UK only "feature." Device Info:  Lumia 900 (AT&T/US) 7.10.8779.8
  • Device: Samsung Focus Flash
    OS: 7.10.8773.98
    Region: USA - St. Louis Area
    Carrier: AT&T
  • Very disappointed... all I had to do prior to tango was push one episode to my phone. I could then see new episodes and download, or stream new episodes as required. But now the complete function is broken and useless. I often go several days not plugging my phone in. And the WiFi sync from Zune does not work with windows 8. Microsoft progress does not include breaking old features... :[ there is absolutely reason to block podcast features at all...
  • I agree with you, most people don't connect their phone to their PC for a few days. I myself have last connected my phone back in may, as I have no use for the Zune PC Software. I put on a selection of my music once to my phone and then live with it (I still use my 80Gb Ipod 5.5G to listen to my music most of the time, I consider my phone a "backup player") and I sync photos using dropbox (pixfi) so I never have to plug my phone into my PC. If I was an avid podcast listener, this would annoy me a lot, but luckily I only have one podcast and I got that to WiFi sync using interop unlock:
     
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1639742
  •   Oh heavens!, an interop unlock isn’t where I want this to go… Thanks for sharing though. RB
  • I know, i'd still think MS should bring that feature back, but it appears that they blocked it on purpose :(
  •   Podcasts are for folks in the US only? Code changes made to stop the flagrant breaches of podcast theft using Mango devices around the world? Come on, this is crazy, we just want to listen to some free to grab podcasts. Nothing wrong with it is there? RB 
  • Canadian Lumia 900 here. Same problem, and I'm happy to see it getting some ink! I used to keep an episode of each of my podcasts on hand so when a new one hit, I could stream it at work. I work late nights, but the podcasts also tended to post late at night(shoutiut to lasertimepodcast.com!). This was a huge disappointment to me, and I hope this article gets enough traction for Microsoft to notice, and address!
    And while I'm here, Rogers Lumias have also lost internet sharing capabilities with out most recent update...
  •   Thanks for commenting,  so Canada too, I thought you guys were *almost* in the same boat as US folks for Geo fenced features.. RB
  • Lost internet sharing with *our* most recent update.
  • I have a Lumia 900 from Rogers in Canada since my LG Optimus 7 did the dreaded frozen boot sequence thing. I can confirm that with the latest updates, podcasts and internet sharing work correctly. Maybe its related more to carrier data plans? Something doesn't make sense or else I'll shut up and consider myself lucky then...
  • I forgot to mention, the phone and computers regional settings are both Canada, but I use RSS links to get US content to sync in podcasts in Zune on my PC. After that, the phone carries on automatically with subscriptions in podcasts settings on the phone.
  • Welcome to my World! :-( This super duper nice podcast functionality is where we in Sweden have been living since day one. I cant Believe that two years in we still dont have a solution to this. I have to plug in my phone almost every day to my PC to get my podcasts downloaded. All the apps I have tried are worhtless, as they want to stream the content instead of downloading it. And none can download in the background while im sleeping! This is really a feature in WP where we suck and iPhone shine. Its the hard truth!
  •   We have reached out to Microsoft for some clarification on this. As yet we havent heard anything back. It’s never been made entirely clear why they geo-fenced podcasts. After all, they are almost all devoid of copyright issues, enough that it certainly doesn’t bother Apple anyhoo. Such a huge, diverse and free resource is all but closed to Windows Phone users? We’d love to know why…. RB
  • Sweden here also, and the regional racism Microsoft have is very frustrating. Apple and Google have working services, where is MSFT? It makes them look cheep in my eyes. Give us Podcasts AND music, is that so much to ask?! :'(
  • I noticed this back in May, but I couldn't connect it to the tango update (I thought my Custom Rom was broken or something), see here:
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1639742
    as you can see, there is a way to get the settings back, unfortunatelly it requires at least interop unlock (so no Nokia love)
    EDIT: my podcasts sync fine via wifi using that workaround, even if the registry settings are reversed.