Anyone remember version 1 of Podcasts? A certifiable nightmare. Bug ridden, unreliable, feature lacking, you name it, it had it. Most egregious of these bugs was the unreliable nature of iCloud sync where syncing across subscription info, playback position, etc were part of the feature set but like most iCloud apps at the time, not very reliable. However, with the release of iOS 7, Apple has released Podcasts Version 2, and it is finally the app that Apple originally intended to be. It should be noted, like many app categories in the App Store, Podcasts may not be the most feature-ridden in the podcasting category, but it is a solid contender for both casual and hardcore listeners like myself.
First and foremost, the iCloud syncing with Podcast seems to be much improved over older versions. I believe this is because Apple has improved the Podcasts app syncing code as well as made some changes to the backend iCloud sync. Setting up podcast subscriptions on my iMac in iTunes caused all the episodes to be picked up by my iPhone and iPad. Apple is attempting to allow users to listen on whatever device is convenient and have all that information ubiquitous. In my experience with the new Podcasts app, Apple is about 75% there. Syncing back and forth between my iPhone and iPad has been flawless. Episode information such as whether or not an particular episode has been played, and your listening position synced flawless between my iPhone and iPad. However, when it comes to other members of the Apple device family such as the iMac and Apple TV this wasn't the case. Hopefully Apple is able to nail down some of the iCloud sync bugs there and bring both the Mac OS and Apple TV back into the fold.
The Podcasts app has been redesigned to become fully iOS 7 compliant, and it shows. The UI, whether you like it or not, is a bright and clean representation devoid of buttons and clutter. The result is a very easy to use application that focuses on podcast listening.
The Podcasts app now also supports iOS 7's background downloading. This feature allows the Podcast app to download episodes to the device even when the app is not running. According to Apple's specification on background downloading, an app that supports this feature receives an invisible push notification and is given the ability to run temporarily in the background to download the data. I have found that this function works well. When I launch the Podcasts app, my episodes are ready in my unplayed list and ready to play. Where this functionality does not work is if the podcast file is over 100mb which will not be downloaded due to Apple's file size limitation over a cellular connection. However, if you are on WIFI there is no limitation so downloading is not an issue. If an episode is not downloaded, it is available for streaming. The settings for performing refreshes, downloading, and episodes to keep locally are in the iOS 7 settings panel and are customizable for each podcast episode.
Apple Podcasts - Universal - Free