The podcasts app was launched a month or so before the launch of iOS 6, as it became apparent that podcast functionality was being split out of the iOS music app. It was fairly awful, though ostensibly in beta very basic functions were unworkable or just plain counterintuitive. I gave it a shot for a while, but had more or less given up on it without some serious improvements in iOS 6.
It's biggest failings for me were:
- Unpredictable syncing with no iCloud cross-device support.
- A simply non-functional auto-downloading feature.
- Counter-intuitive playback sequence options.
Thankfully, these things have been fixed. In actual fact the Podcasts app is now pretty good. It is auto-downloading as advertised, defaults to play from oldest to newest and sorts the episode view in a more meaningful way. It even now has iCloud syncing between my iPad and iPhone (I've yet to test this with iTunes - I expect this is coming in the new version next month).
It's an interesting move by Apple, and makes your 'podcatcher' of choice more of a necessary decision. Before, most folks might have been content to let the music app handle their podcasts as it was the default and well supported by iTunes. Now you have to download something from the App Store, which possibly gives other popular options a better shot and wider exposure.
While the new Podcasts app actually works great, it's probably worth taking a look around the app store for alternatives. After a rocky beta, a lot of people were turned off the app, but I'd give it another try if something else hasn't already caught your attention.