I'm running iTunes 11.1, iOS 7.1, and Podcasts 2.0.2 for iOS, the latest versions of each. I'm signed into the same iCloud account on both my Mac and iPhone. Podcast syncing is enabled in iTunes, and the "Sync Subscriptions" setting is turned on in the settings for the Podcasts app on my iPhone.

Why, then, does podcast syncing simply not work?

Some examples:

  • If I've played through a podcast episode on my iPhone, the same episode in iTunes won't be marked as played (and vice versa)
  • If I'm partway through an episode, the playback position doesn't sync between my iPhone and iTunes
  • iTunes will download podcast episodes that I've already marked as played on my iPhone (and vice versa), even though I've set both to download only unplayed episodes
  • If I subscribe to a new podcast on my iPhone, it won't appear in iTunes (and vice versa)
  • Etc., etc.

I feel like I must be doing something wrong or am missing a setting somewhere, because if not, I can't believe that podcast syncing is this unreliable. It quite literally does not work in any way whatsoever.

I've tried turning syncing on and off, signing in and out of iCloud, etc. Podcast syncing simply has never worked for as long as I've been using the Podcasts app (going back to iOS 6).

  • 1
    The Podcast.app is utter garbage. Do you have a need for listening to podcasts in iTunes on your computer? If not, do yourself a favor and use another podcast application.
    – jnovack
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:33
  • Yes, that's the point – I listen on both my iPhone and my Mac, so it would be nice if the syncing actually worked. I could give up and just always use the iPhone, but it's frustrating since syncing is supposed to be a feature!
    – daGUY
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:47
  • For first time set up connect the devices with USB cable.
    – Ruskes
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 8:53

4 Answers 4


Apple's entire podcast ecosystem is known to be buggy and has been for a long time. (See, for example, this bug of utter disconnect between iTunes and iOS prior to the arrival of the Podcasts app. It seems the point of moving podcasts to a dedicated iOS app was simply to banish the irredeemably buggy podcast code from the otherwise well functioning Music app code. I still have the exact same problems with iOS 7.1 and the Podcasts app.) You're not doing anything wrong, the stuff just doesn't work.

You will have better luck with Instacast. There are other third-party podcast players for iOS, but AFAIK Instacast is the only popular one that also plays on Macs and syncs between iOS and Macs. As of this writing (April 2014), Pocket Casts is arguably better than Instacast with respect to syncing among mobile devices, as it even syncs between iOS and Android, but it does not have a Mac application to allow you to play podcasts on your Mac.

  • 1
    The bug has been logged to Apple several times (including by myself). They know, we can only wait. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 16:07
  • I actually used to use Instacast before the Podcasts app came out; I didn't know there was a Mac version too (maybe there wasn't at the time). Sounds like that's my best bet. Thanks!
    – daGUY
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 13:13
  • I found podcasting to be reliable before Apple moved it out of the music app - since then just lots of small issues
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 12:36
  • I'm on iOS 9 with a 5th generation iPod and latest Mac OS/iTunes at the time of writing and the sync is a disaster. It randomly refuses to sync some episodes (sometimes an "empty" dot appears next to the episode in question, sometimes the episode appears in the iPod from iTunes, but not in the podcasts app in the iPod itself, etc.). Even fully manual sync fails randomly. My take is that they'll just never fix this.
    – Mena
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 9:04

Nope it really doesn't work period. I've spent so many hours trying to sort this out with my own collection. No matter what I do itunes keeps trying to download long dead and dormant episodes I do not want or need.

I have marked them as played. I have marked them so that they are not saved podcasts. I have deleted the feeds.

I have performed the equivalent steps on the iphone itself. Then all of a sudden the podcast episodes return and show as unplayed....and therefore begin downloading again....usually when I am busy doing something else.

I have a number of podcasts subscriptions. I like to keep some channels like a library on my hard drive that I may return to at some stage and I have others where I will never listen to them again and am happy for them to be deleted. However I almost exclusively listen to podcasts on the road and could not fit my library on the iphone to save for all time.

There are some desperately needed basic fixes here by apple and it seems by all I have seen the issues are being ignored. I am dumbfounded by the deaf and dumb approach to the gradual destruction of this app and the determination not to fix anything.

It suggests Apple has reached a critical mass where deadbeats have moved into management positions and the slow process of riding this company into the ground has commenced. Companies rarely recover from this....it already looks too late from my perspective and experiences.

The current behaviour requires that you not only micromanage your podcast lists; you must be hyper-vigilant at all moments lest one of your devices starts trying sync something even when the sync options are turned off.

My device is constantly attempting to download podcast episodes and filling up storage capacity.

I thought torture was meant to be illegal.....


Actually it does work:

Just sync as usual between your Mac and your iPhone (make sure to check the podcasts you want to sync as you would do with playlists and songs).

Then open your Podcast app on your iPhone and choose the Podcast you want to listen to.

On the second screen you'll have 3 options available:

  • Unplayed
  • Feed
  • Saved

All the podcasts you have downloaded on your Mac are in the "Saved" option.

I hope this will help.


This Apple KB article solves the issue for me:


  • 2
    Welcome to Ask Different! While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 18:09
  • 1
    Useless answer, this is just a huge generic article on how to sync podcasts and does not address the actual question asked. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 20:07

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