Read-Later Apps Compared: Pocket Vs Instapaper Vs Readability

It's often hard to set aside time to read all the interesting articles you encounter during the day, which is why bookmarking services designed to maintain a 'read later' list have become so competitive. Today we're looking at the most popular three and pitting them against one another: Pocket, Instapaper and Readability. Here's how they stack up.

We compared these three apps back in March 2012, but there have been several changes since, including new names and new features. So we've updated this comparison to include the latest versions of each app.

Pocket (Formerly Read It Later)

Pocket was the first of these bookmark-and-read-later services back when it was called Read It Later. As such, it has an impressive spread of supported devices and apps. It's also come a long way in the looks department and has some killer features that make it our favourite of the three.

Price: Free

Supported Devices: Pocket has official apps for iOS, Android, Chrome and the web. There are also third-party clients for Windows Phone, BlackBerry, WebOS and others available.

Supported Apps: Pocket has, by a good margin, the most support among third-party apps. If you want to save articles from Pulse, Flipboard, the Onion, TweetBot, the Alien Blue Reddit Client and other apps, Pocket is the service to use. It also has browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome and Safari, and a bookmarklet that works in any browser. For everything else, it has an easy save-by-email function. You can view the full list of supported apps here.

Interface and Features: Pocket is probably the most feature-packed of the three clients. Apart from the features mentioned above, Pocket can also:

  • Save embedded video in any article so you can watch them inline. No other read-it-later app does this (although you must be online for this feature to work in Pocket).
  • Send articles to other people via email, or — even better — straight to other Pocket users.
  • Choose from two different fonts, multiple font sizes and three different colour palettes (black on white, white on black, and sepia).
  • Choose from two views on the home screen: a tiled "card" view and a traditional list view.
  • Tag articles for easier browsing

Who Should Use It: When in doubt, Pocket probably supports your device of choice and the apps you use. It has a solid feature set and a well-designed interface. Plus, it's supported by nearly everyone that supports a bookmark-and-read-later app. Currently, it's our favourite read-later service.

Instapaper

Instapaper was long popular with the iOS crowd but has since expanded to other platforms. Its always been praised for its design, but we think its biggest strength lies in its article discovery. Not only can you save articles you found on the web, but the ability to follow your friends on Instapaper is a great way to pick up a few more, plus the Editor's Picks help you find articles you wouldn't have otherwise read. It's mainly focused on the Mac and iOS side of things, but it has third-party support on other platforms too.

Price: $4.49 on iOS, $2.99 on Android. Instapaper also offers a $US1/month subscription service that lets you search your entire archive of articles, which is handy.

Supported Devices: Instapaper officially only supports iOS, Android and the Kindle. You can also export your articles in ePub format for use on any ereader that supports it.

Supported Apps: Instapaper doesn't have quite as many supported apps as Pocket, and many of them are iOS and Mac apps (like Reeder, NetNewsWire and Tweetbot), but the list is still impressive. You can also submit articles via a bookmarklet or by email. Check out Instapaper's list of supported apps.

Interface and Features: Instapaper has a very pretty interface and has grown to include a solid list of features. Apart from the above, Instapaper also lets you:

  • Choose from 14 different fonts, multiple font sizes, paragraph spacing and line spacing options as well as three colour palettes. Instapaper has more choices for customising the reader interface than any other app of its type.
  • Follow other people on Instapaper and read articles they've "liked".
  • Discover popular articles others are reading through Instapaper's "The Feature" section (which is a little wonky and includes a lot of duplicates, but it's still a great way to find stuff to read).
  • Choose from two views on the home screen: a tiled "card" view and a traditional list view.
  • Scroll through articles by tilting your device back and forth.
  • Define words you don't know using an offline dictionary.
  • Organise articles in folders for easier browsing.
  • Search your entire archive of articles (pro subscription only).

Who Should Use It: If you love choosing between a bunch of different fonts, novel features like tilt scrolling, and have other friends using Instapaper, this app is for you. In our experience, it doesn't always work as well as other apps at stripping and presenting articles, but as far as design configurability goes, it's the most powerful of the three.

Readability

Readability has always been a big name in making web articles more readable, but it's way behind the times on the bookmark service and mobile apps. Still, while it may not be as mature and feature-filled as its cousins, its simplicity may win over people who just want to get reading.

Price: Free

Supported Devices: Readability supports iOS, Android and Kindle devices. It has extensions for Firefox, Chrome and Safari, plus the usual bookmarklets and add-by-email features.

Supported Apps: Readability doesn't have a lot of app integration, although it does work with a few popular ones, like Pulse, Reeder, Flipboard and Tweetbot. Check out Readability's apps page for more info.

Interface and Features: Readability looks similar to Instapaper, but it has fewer options. We think it looks a little nicer, but it isn't nearly as feature-filled as the other apps. Readability lets you:

  • Navigate the app with a number of handy gestures.
  • Tag articles for easier browsing.
  • See what other people are reading with the "Top Reads" list, which is an awesome way to find new articles.
  • Choose from two views on the home screen: a tiled "card" view and a traditional list view.
  • Choose from five different fonts, five text sizes, five settings for column width and two colour palettes (light and dark).

Who Should Use It: Readability is probably the prettiest in our opinion, both in interface design, gestures and animations, but it doesn't have a lot of features or support a lot of apps. If you just want something simple, Readability will work fine, but otherwise we'd recommend skipping it in favour of Pocket or Instapaper.


Comments

    One feature not called out is text-to-speech reading of articles. Pocket has this (for Android) the others don't. I built an app called reedeo that provides this (TTS) for iOS.

    Text-to-Speech definitely isn't for everyone, but it really can help you stay caught-up on your reading.

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