As someone very interested in mobile computing, I follow a lot of Apple related blogs. In the past few months I’ve started listening to more and more Apple-related podcasts. I’ve compiled a list of my favorites here.
Build and Analyze
Run time: over an hour, less than two hours.
This is an excellent podcast hosted by Marco Arment and Dan Benjamin. Ostensibly it’s about the world of iOS development and mobile devices, but the hosts stray into all manner of topics. I originally listened to this because of its focus on iOS development and because I had used the main host Marco Arment’s excellent Instapaper service and app. Then I discovered the podcast through his equally excellent blog. Now I just like listening to the guy talk and finding out his opinion on whatever they feel like talking about.
Run time: usually less than an hour and a half.
Another podcast from the 5by5 network. Once you start listening to one you hear the hosts mentioning the other podcasts because many of them listen to each other.
This podcast is hosted by John Siracusa and Dan Benjamin, perhaps best known for his lengthy and thorough reviews of each new OS X release on Ars Technica.
Siracusa offers good analysis of the mobile space with an Apple focus. He’s also a geek and sometimes they talk about home theater or Star Wars or other various geeky topics.
One of my favorite episodes demonstrating Siracusa’s take on business strategy in the technology world is episode 31 where they discuss HP’s exit from the PC business and the effect of that move on Microsoft. It’s a bit dated now that Amazon’s device is revealed to be running an Android fork, but they talk about the pros and cons of Amazon potentially buying webOS to use for their new tablet.
The Critical Path
Run time: less than an hour.
Listening to Horace Dediu makes me feel like an industry insider. He’s got a lot of insightful analysis of technology companies and the phone and mobile space. He’s a bit more serious than the other hosts on 5by5, and he leverages his experience in the industry to give keen insights.
He writes on his blog Asymco, but those posts tend to be more about numbers and financials. On the podcast he has more business and strategy analysis. He is apparently actually a go-to guy for a lot of heavyweight publications when they want opinions on the telecom and mobile industries, so I feel grateful to get his time and analysis basically for free.
The Talk Show
Run time: nearly two hours.
This show is hosted by Dan Benjamin and John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame. The content is similar to Hypercritical and Build and Analyze. They are usually discussing the same topics, but with slightly different perspectives.
Depending on when Apple news comes out one of these podcasts will get the first chance to comment, and then the others will have their own unique, usually complementary, take on recent events. This is the main reason I like to listen to all of them. I actually rank Gruber’s show last in the Apple podcasts, because personally I like Siracusa’s or Arment’s speaking style more, but you ought to give him a try if you are interested.
An aside about 5by5
All of the previous few podcasts are co-hosted by Dan Benjamin, who runs the 5by5 network. Dan Benjamin is a really likeable guy and he’s clearly very skilled at running such a successful podcast network. However, I have some reservations about his role on a lot of the shows. I can’t count the number of times that as an audience member I understood exactly what one of the hosts was saying when Dan would make some kind of off-topic remark that didn’t much advance the conversation.
In my opinion he is most in his element talking to Merlin Mann or Horace Dediu, but when placed beside John Gruber, John Siracusa, or especially Marco Arment, sometimes I get frustrated when he sidetracks the host too much. I don’t question his credentials as a long time Mac user and developer, but he has trouble keeping up with some of his co-hosts.
I still believe in the strength of his two or one host style. So many of the podcasts I tried listening to on other networks try to pile on half a dozen hosts to try to cover up the fact that none of them are strong enough to host the show alone. The result is too much chatter, and rarely anything interesting is said.
I think his role is to highlight and complement the main host and to keep them talking. When he strays from this role he can be a distraction, but not enough to cause me to discontinue listening to any of these shows.
However, when he was on his hiatus and Merlin Mann took over for him on “The Talk Show,” it brought this problem into sharp contrast. John Gruber is normally pretty staid and unenthusiastic, but with Merlin he was excited and animated and they ended up talking for over two hours.
This particular anecdote may not be a fair comparison. Merlin Mann is one of the most charismatic characters on the internet, and he was put in a new situation for a one-off show. Maybe if he had to do it every week it wouldn’t be quite so exciting. Also, with Merlin they got way off topic and ended up talking for over two hours about many strange topics. This is good, sometimes, but maybe Dan is better at keeping the hosts more focused on the specialty of the podcast.
Nevertheless, to me it was one of the most entertaining episodes of the Talk Show in recent memory. At the very least it should give Dan Benjamin pause to contemplate his role on some of his shows. Giving that show a listen (which he still hasn’t, according to Merlin’s recent show), might give him ideas about how to make his excellent shows even better.
I hope this list has been useful. Look forward to an addendum about Android podcasts next week.