I'm a pretty fickle app user, always ready to ditch the old and reliable for the new and shiny, but while this does mean I probably spend a little more on apps than is sensible, I do at least get a decent sense of the market... at least, for my particular spheres of interest.
There are quite a few podcasting apps available in the iOS app store. Downcast seems quite popular, but its barebones UI and seeming lack of features left me looking for something better.
My friend Caroline told me about Pocket Casts about 18 months ago, and up until recently I've been using it religiously. As a bus-riding commuter, podcast-listening is without a doubt the thing I use my iPhone for the most, so I want an app that's reliable, allows me to get to what I want quickly and let me stream, subscribe, skip, resume and download with the minimum of fuss. Pocket Casts fits the bill pretty much perfectly.
It's got a decent UI but which is prone to the occasional bug, and which contains a little skeuomorphism (though not nearly as much as you'd have found in Apple's own offering up until a couple of months ago), and it does its job well. It's easy to skip forward and back through an episode, speed up the speech or share what I'm listening to. If I were to niggle, maybe it'd be nice to see the album art next to each podcast in the Episodes view, so I could see at a glance what's coming up without having to read anything. But to be honest, I'd have been happy using this forever had I not been tempted to hop across the pond.
After reading about it via Twitter I decided to give Instacast a go. It's been newly upgraded with a bunch of new features, but most of these mean nothing to me as I wasn't acquainted with the old versions.
What did catch my eye was something I knew Pocket Casts was missing: a sleep timer. With Instacast, I can start a podcast playing while I get ready for bed, and plug my iPhone into charge while I drift off, safe in the knowledge that the podcast wont' end before I doze off. It sounds silly, but I've woken myself up from a doze before to turn a podcast off, lest the app burn through all my subscribed episodes while I sleep. Sounds daft, but I promise you it is a thing.
Also, Instacast is available on the iPad (as a universal app, not a scaled-up phone version). and 'cos I can sync my subscriptions via that lovely cloud thing, I can start a podcast on one device and finish it later on another. Unlikely, but it does mean that if I hear about a video podcast I like, I can subscribe to it on the phone - as it's nearest to hand - then watch it later on the iPad. First world problems need first world solutions, people!
I've only been using Instacast for a little over a day, but it's more feature-rich than Pocket Casts. It has nice swipe gestures for marking episodes as played, and I can put shows that are on hiatus in a special bin so they're out of my main feed but still get updated. I can set push notifications for certain shows, and tell the app to stop playing after the current episode, not rattle on through my list.
There are elements of both apps' interfaces that could be improved, but I think these two are probably the best on the market and any choice really comes down to personal preference. There's nothing wrong with Pocket Casts, and I may go back to it, but for now I think I'm going to enjoy settling in with Instacast and its many features.
Now, I did hear rumour that one of these apps was going to get a might more social, and as a chap who likes to scrobble - but doesn't want to mix hist last.fm music listings with his podcast plays - the app that implements this the best might win me over completely.
Bot for now, I think the winner of this battle is podcasting. Oh yeah, I totally went there.