Apple's Podcasts app for iOS was probably one of its most controversial releases — thousands of users have complained in the iTunes Store about bugs, lag, and a UI that takes Apple's skeuomorphic tendencies to the extreme. The company is trying to make things right with jilted users with the latest update to the app, which is available to download now. While the app functions largely the same as the previous version, there are some crucial changes for users to take note of. For starters, Apple has removed the universally-panned "tape deck" UI element that could be found when playing back a podcast. In its place is a "now playing" screen that closely resembles the UI in Apple's stock Music app — if you tap the cover, an overlay will appear with more granular controls.
Goodbye, tape deck
The other big change is the addition of playlists, a much-needed and heavily-requested feature. Apple calls them "my stations" — users can create a station and then pick specific podcasts to add to it. By default, it only adds the most recent episode, but you can choose instead to have it add two, three, five, 10, or all episodes; you can also specify whether it keeps episodes you've already played or not. Stations will play either starting with the most recent or the oldest episode, depending on what you choose. There's also an "on-the-go" playlist that lets you add single episodes, unlike the perpetually-refreshing stations. While it's easy to stream podcasts in this app, Apple also includes "download all" buttons throughout so you can take your stations offline when necessary.
A better app, but still not perfect
Apple is also using iCloud to push your stations across all of your iOS devices, but in our quick bit of testing it seems that syncing is still a bit buggy. We had two different versions of the same playlist duplicate on us after opening up the Podcasts app on a second iOS device, and downloading does not sync between devices. If you choose to download 5 old episodes on one device, you'll need to do the same on the other, though automatic download preferences for new content should sync between devices. Given that some users might use different devices for different purposes, though, Apple might have made the smart move not enabling download syncing by default (though we do wish it were an option).
The app comes with the usual "stability and performance enhancements," something Podcasts desperately needed. However, at first glance, there's still some lagginess and freezing, plus the aforementioned syncing strangeness. There's no question the app is better than it was before, but power podcast consumers will probably want to continue looking at third-party options.