iPhone owners don't need to look much further beyond the pre-installed iTunes app when it comes to finding a quality podcast player, but Android users have a much tougher decision ahead of them. The lack of a dominant podcast app on Google Play has meant there's now numerous independent developers vying against each other to woo over podcast-loving Android fans, creating a healthy selection of players to choose from.
The below list is my opinion of the best podcast apps on Google Play. They've all been tested on a HTC Desire and they all have free trial versions, so you don't have to take my word for it - you can give them a spin for yourself.
Beyond Pod has been my default podcast app for the last two years and in my opinion it's the best podcast player on Google Play. Its podcast search tool has over the years developed into an excellent discovery engine for new shows. The interface - while not the slickest in the world - is simple to use and straightforward. Plus there's a whole bunch of customisation settings you can tinker with, allowing you to schedule podcast downloads on different feeds for different times of the day, skip advertisements, auto delete and pull feeds with Google Reader. Unlike other players, the free version is perfectly usable, but shelling out an extra 5 Euros gives you more features. Beyond Pod is also regularly updated and the dev team listen to user recommendations. A great player, and well worth the price.
I expect there are legions of DoggCatcher fans out there who strongly disagree with me promoting Beyond Pod before DoggCatcher. Both apps have been around for a long time on Google Play and both are great podcast players that you won't be disappointed with. In fact, there's really not that much between DoggCatcher and Beyond Pod, they both offer pretty much identical features and even have similar interfaces. But ultimately I think Beyond Pod has a better search tool and offers a free version that you can use indefinitely - DoggCatcher's free version expires after 7 days. My advice is try out both and see what fits best.
Google Listen is the most downloaded podcast player on Google Play and that's largely because it completely free - it's also sometimes pre-installed on Android devices. For a free app Google Listen is pretty good, in a 'no frills, gets the job done' sort of way. It's also very easy on your SD card/phone memory, weighing in at a very light 552k. But in my experience Google Listen is also prone to glitches (downloads cutting out halfway through) and I often struggled to search and add podcast feeds that I know exist from within the app. Despite the flaws, if you only listen to podcasts occasionally, or have no plans to pay any money, then give Google Listen a try.
Stitcher is slightly different from other podcast apps as it mainly promotes itself as a streaming audio player - you don't have download any podcasts, you just stream them over Wi-Fi or mobile broadband. Stitcher also gives you access to thousands of live radio stations. If you're more of a radio than a podcast fan, then Stitcher is well worth downloading (it's completely free) and it's a really slick and professional-looking app. But as a pure podcast player I don't think it's much better than Beyond Pod or Dog Catcher, and both of those can stream podcasts anyway. I also don't think streaming audio is that desirable on smartphones, especially not when you consider the UK's patchy mobile broadband coverage, low speeds and high tariffs.
If you have serious iTunes envy then doubleTwist is worth checking out. The app works in concert with a desktop application that you install on your PC or Mac, which then syncs with iTunes and Windows Media Player and pushes all your podcast through to your phone. DoubleTwist also has an excellent Apple-inspired user interface. The big problem is that you have to shell out around 10 Euros to unlock all the major features (though there is a 7 Euro version too). The free version will only let you install podcasts onto your phone if you physically connect to your PC with a cable.