Why compare 6 popular iPhone podcast apps this time? Because after comparing 27 iPhone weather apps and 18 iPhone Twitter apps side-by-side, I needed to catch my breath this week and focus on something with a smaller scope.

You'd think with Apple entering the podcast app space demand for alternatives would go down. But, apparently, that's not the case. Taking podcasts out of the iTunes Store app and getting people to go to the App Store has resulted in -- wait for it... -- people going to the App Store. Once there, they're often times settling on something other than Apple's fare.

Since podcasts, video and audio, are media files, the playback screens pictured below obviously focus on playback controls, almost always set off by the podcast's album art. How many controls are exposed at once, verses hidden a tap or two away, varies, as does the overall simplicity or complexity of the screens themselves.

Here, in order, from top left to bottom right, are:

  1. Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Instacast 3
  2. Downcast, iCatcher, RSSRadio

There are other factors to consider when comparing podcast apps, of course. How good and quick the experience is for finding, subscribing, and playing podcasts, whether there's sync for multiple devices, how well show notes are handled, and how well it animates the hidden reel-to-reel recorder. (Kidding!) For more on all of that, look here:

For now, look over the designs above and let me know what you think. Which podcast apps do you use, and are they the same ones that appeal to you most in the comparison above? Any of the players attractive enough they encourage you to give them a shot?

(And if you think the timing just oh so conveniently coincided with the unveiling of our all-new, all-awesome Mobile Nations podcast album art, well, then, you're as smart as you are good looking!)