Nowadays the functionality I want could be done in software, either for Android or the iPhone. I carry both all the time. But I'd still prefer to carry a medium-size device just for playing podcasts.
1. The device plugs in through the USB port as a hard drive. I copy the MP3s into a folder which can then be played through the UI of the device. If this is iPhone software, I create a playlist in iTunes that contains all my podcasts.
5. When I make it to the end of a show, it goes in the trash. I can empty the trash later when I'm putting more programs on the device, or leave it there in case I want to listen to it again (I don't think I've actually done this even once, in six years of podcast listening).
6. If it's a standalone device, I don't want to pay more than $30. Apple's players are way too expensive, so are Sony's.
Ideally I'd like this to be a device, not an app, because even though both platforms claim to do multi-tasking, they behave unpredictably. I shot a movie the other day while listening to a podcast, and the podcast stopped, and when I resumed I had to start over from the beginning. On the original iPod I knew how to fast-forward to a new location, but they changed the UI, and when I'm out and about there's nothing dumber than having to stop on the side of the street for five minutes to get the software to behave itself. I had one moment where the iPod told me it had to rebuild something and I should be patient. I was standing in the middle of Houston Street with traffic all around me, and the programmers back in Cupertino programming want me to be patient. Hello.
I used a Sony Walkman for a while and loved it. It does almost all of the items on my list, but not the crucial one -- #4 -- picking up where I left off on multiple podcasts. This is a big feature. I can read three books at the same time, there's nothing so weird about wanting to "read" three podcasts simultaneously. The Kindle does this admirably. Hey maybe Amazon should make an audio book reader? Thinking out loud.
BTW, the Walkman that I love crapped out on me. It's stuck in a loop rebuilding its library.
I know people are going to tell me about products that kind of do some of what I want, or do something completely different. I think there's a $30 sweet spot out there that everyone is missing. Music and podcasts are very different forms and require different approaches.