iOS 11 Podcasts.app isn’t as broken as iTunes mediated iPad photo transfer or the US government, but it’s not far behind. The current version is not intended to be used with iTunes. It is designed for people who listen to Podcasts they way we used to listen to radio. Pick a podcast or collection of podcasts (a “station”) and stream it over always-on cellular.
That’s not how I listen to Podcasts. I select a topic of interest and learn from it. I used to use iTunes to organize my subscriptions and local stores; smart and manual playlists queued up my programs. In iOS 11 Apple broke all that.
Here’s what I do now.
I disabled iCloud sync in both iTunes and iOS.
In iTunes I select about 10-20 episodes from my queue. I push them to my iPhone from iTunes. In Podcasts.app I enable the ‘Downloaded’ episodes menu. That’s all I use now. I pick episodes off that queue. One at a time, because play-next doesn’t work any more. iOS Podcasts.app deletes an episode after I listen. Every week or so I add another 10-20.
It’s very simple, it’s very stupid, it’s Apple 2017.