Can Apple’s new podcast app compete?

**UPDATED info below**

I’m not so sure… I’m a podcast junkie — I listen to hours upon hours of podcasts per week, I might even consider it an addiction.  I’ve tried a few different apps for management and playback, and my favorite overall is BeyondPod on Android.  When I decided to purchase a podcatcher for my iPad, I decided to go with Downcast and am generally satisfied with a few exceptions, but I have no major complaints.  Once I saw that Apple had released the recently rumored Podcasts app, I had to give it a try.  I’m not sold on it just yet, but it’s a good start.

Here’s what I was looking for:

  • Subscriptions & single episode downloads
  • Automatic downloads
  • Library management
  • Playlist functionality
Here’s what we got:
  • Subscriptions – This was something major that was missing when using iTunes on the iPad previously.  You were able to download single episodes, but all subscribing had to be done on a desktop version of iTunes.  Finding podcasts from the catalog and subscribing, downloading or streaming episodes is quick and easy.
  • Automatic downloads – As with desktop iTunes, you can now set automatic downloads.  There doesn’t appear to be a way to schedule these for a certain time, nor does it indicate when the app will next check for new episodes, but better than manual downloads.
  • Library management – HUGE disappointment here, you can add and delete podcasts from the catalog, but there is no way to view by category or even sync previously subscribed feeds from an Apple ID, which is particularly frustrating. **
  • Playlists – As of right now there are no playlist options available.  I would like to see Apple add this functionality later, sometimes I know I’m going to have a long travel day and it would be nice to just create a playlist that will just keep on going. **
  • Top stations – This is a nice discovery feature where you can browse “top” podcasts by category, but there is nothing telling why feeds are included here (Are they top rated? Most downloaded/subscribed? Paid advertisements?).  Also, those that do not have specialized album art do not have any information, even a title, available without going into the information screen, which is not a great from a UX/usability point of view.
  • Playback management – Speed control, sleep timer, and sharing via email, Twitter and iMessage are available.
The discovery feature is something I may use, but in general I think I’ll stick with Downcast.  We’ll have to wait and see if Apple adds more features or just keeps it basic, but I hope they beef the app up a bit.  In the meantime, at least they gave some thought to the reel-to-reel aesthetic of the “Now Playing” screen, I guess?
**UPDATE 6/29/12**
You can import your podcasts via Apple ID, but everything needs to be synced via iTunes and a computer.  Playlists are also able to be imported via iTunes, but there is no playlist management in the Podcasts app.

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