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Is Apple's new Podcasts app finally good?

Apple sneaked a Podcasts overhaul into iOS 9. Has the app reached a mature, usable state?

Back in 2013, I correctly identified Podcasts as the worst app Apple ever made. Obviously the company was paying attention, because 33 short months later, things are looking up.

The new, iOS 9 version of Apple Podcasts boasts a fairly substantial redesign and some much-needed new features. For example, there's now a tab that shows all the podcasts you haven't listened to yet.

Intrigued? For anyone who quit the app years ago and moved on to something like Downcast, Instacast or Overcast, the question is simple: Is there any reason to switch back? Has Podcasts matured into an app that's usable? Maybe even good?

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Let's start with the aforementioned Unplayed tab, which assembles a playlist of all the unplayed episodes from your favorite (that is, subscribed) podcasts. It's an undeniably handy addition, and to start any episode you just tap it -- you don't have to wade into subsequent screens.

I particularly like this tab's summary view, which shows how much time is remaining in any given episode you started -- but can't remember whether you finished.

Next, there's the redesigned My Podcasts tab. In place of the previous version's oversize, under-informative card view, you get small thumbnails alongside the actual name of the podcast (duh) and how many unplayed episodes you have.

For any given podcast subscription you view, there's a toggle between Unplayed and Feed views -- the latter showing all the episodes that are available. I think "Feed" remains a confusing choice of descriptor, but there it is.

Finally, Podcasts' Now Playing screen has been tweaked to better more closely resemble Apple Music, with a mini player that can reside just above the toolbar and an Up Next list so you can see what's next in the playlist and quickly hop to something else.

The app's Featured and Top Charts pages haven't really changed. I do like the option of filtering the Top Charts listing by category -- great for quickly honing in on, say, comedy podcasts.

All this amounts to a podcast manager that is -- wait for it -- serviceable! It's still not perfect, and not sufficiently advanced that I'm going to give up Instacast. But for anyone who might be new to podcasts, Apple's eponymous app is finally good enough to recommend.

(Needless to say, if there's another podcast manager you like better, hit the comments and explain which one and why.)