When you’re on the go, listening to podcasts on your smartphone or tablet can be a great way to make use of your time. There are podcasts on just about every topic under the sun, from sports and news to pop culture to astrophysics – and it can seem like there just as many apps to choose from to play your podcasts on. A podcast player app, sometimes also known as a podcatcher, will make your life easier by allowing you to create playlists, find your favorite shows and automatically download new episodes, among other extra features.

Apple has it’s own (free) podcast app, simply called Podcasts, but it is pretty basic and doesn’t offer a ton of pro functionality. Most avid listeners will want to add a more powerful podcast player to their app toolkit. We took a look at the options for iPad and iPhone, and chose the apps with the best extra features, most useful and easy to operate interface and appealing design.

Here are our picks for the five best podcast apps for iPad and iPhone.

Downcast Editor's Pick

While Downcast is a hearty podcast app that packs in lots of advanced options for more expert users, it can also be utilized by new listeners. Some of the robust features include a customizable playlist builder, podcast-specific settings, quick skip buttons to move forward or back, and auto-update/download. It syncs across devices easily via iCloud, it also works with Dropbox, and there’s a desktop version for Mac. While the design is not as slick as some other apps, Downcast more than makes up for it with the variety of rich features that appeal to power users, at a good price to boot.

Price:
$2.99
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Instacast 4

Instacast retooled it’s design for the 4.0 version to have a very clean, minimalist look that matches the aesthetics of iOS7. The sleek interface and neat menus make it easy to navigate, including a sidebar menu that swipes in from the edge of the screen. The app allows you to manage playlists, queue the next podcast while listening, updates and downloads in the background, and syncs across devices. It now works with it’s own cloud storage service, and it also has a desktop version for Mac. A solid app with good features for power users, but its biggest advantage is the fresh, easy-to-use design.

Price:
$1.99
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Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts features a beautiful, clean interface that highlights the artwork of the podcast being played – the clever design even matches the color of controls on the playback screen to the art. Like other apps, it includes great features like auto-download, sync options, push notifications, smart playlists and a sleep timer. The navigation is simple and intuitive, however, power users looking for ultra-customizable options may not find everything here. If you're impressed by sweet design details and handy shortcuts, you will be a fan of this app.

Price:
$3.99
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Castro

Another podcast player that is noteworthy for its striking, minimalist design, Castro’s interface is straightforward and easy to navigate. It includes auto-downloads, streaming, notifications, a sleep timer and a very fast search. It simplifies things with a single playlist, but there aren’t a lot of custom preferences available. And there isn’t an iPad app. The simple elegance is great for casual listeners, but the app won’t give advanced users all of the extra options they get in other apps, especially at this price.

Price:
$3.99
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Overcast

A brand-new contender for iOS (July 2014), Overcast is already gaining praise for its simple yet polished design and many appealing features. The free basic version works well for browsing and playing podcasts and creating playlists, but to put it on par with other feature-rich apps, you’ll need to shell out $4.99 to ‘Unlock Everything’ in the upgraded version. Some of the cool advanced features include smart speed, which will skip any periods of silence, and voice boost, which helps to equalize poor audio levels. It can also sync with Twitter to recommend podcasts that you might like. Though, you currently can’t stream podcasts and there is no iPad version – the company plans to add these things in the future.

Price:
Free
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Verdict

If you’re new to the world of podcasts, you could be easily confused by all the custom options and feel overwhelmed by advanced apps. However, it’s also easy to ignore all those extra features, simply press play and enjoy listening to your favorite rants. We chose Downcast for the robust set of features given at a value, and for it’s reliability over time.

Do you value sleek design over functionality and extra features? What is your favorite podcast app?