Comparing My Two Favorite Apps for Reading Internet Articles.

It was 2011 when I held my first Apple device (a used 8GB iPod). The design, feel, interface, and intuitive features were amazing.

And then there were the apps. So . . . many . . . apps. I spent untold hours (months, really) scouring the App Store for all the resourceful, innovative, and cool apps available. I was an app junkie.

Fast forward to today. A couple iPhones, an iPad, and an iMac later, apps have lost much of their luster because I’ve seen so many of them.

There’s an app for just about everything but rarely does a new one come along that wows me. Because of this, whenever I stumble upon one that stands out, I’m taken back to that wonderful and wide-eyed time in 2011 when I first cradled that iPod. A time when every app was new and alluring.

And now, I’ve found not one, but two such apps. They’re called Instapaper and Pocket, and what they do is simple but brilliant.

Screenshot from author’s phone showing Instapaper app and Pocket app icons.

I’m one of those guys who regularly reaches my maximum allowable limit of open Safari tabs at one time on my phone. (Did you even know there was a limit?)

Many of those open tabs are articles that I want to read but not at the time I found them. So I save them by keeping their respective webpages open.

Instapaper and Pocket solve the too-many-open-tabs problem by downloading those articles to their apps, thus allowing me to get rid of the numerous webpages floating in suspended animation that constantly remind me how far I’m behind on my reading.

Whenever I come across an article I want to read, instead of leaving it open for weeks or months (and risking accidentally deleting it), with just a couple quick taps that article is now safely stored in one of these reading apps.

But that’s not all. The interface and numerous reader-friendly features make these apps even better, including displaying the estimated read time for each article. How cool is that?

What I like most about these apps, however, isn’t any of their marvelous features, but the distraction-free reading they provide me. By housing my articles to be read later in these app’s repositories, I don’t have to open my Internet browser to read them (and they’re void of distracting ads).

The call of the Internet’s siren song is so strong that when I’m trying to read an article online, I oftentimes find myself easily drawn elsewhere. By being in the Instapaper app or the Pocket app — and not on the Internet — my temptation to wander or check social media is mitigated, and I get more quality reading accomplished. To those as easily distracted as me, that alone makes these apps worth their weight in gold, and is one more reason why I’m raving about them.

Instapaper screenshot from author’s phone: notice estimated reading times are displayed.

Articles in Instapaper and Pocket remove the ads, banners, and other distractions (commonly found in articles read directly from the Internet).

You can also change the background color, text font, and text size. All of which is an improvement on the old way of reading articles from the Internet.

I was so glad I found Instapaper and Pocket that I was inspired to write this article to let others know they exist.

Now, I know what some of you are saying: “But Safari has a ‘reader’ feature that gets rid of ads, too.

True, Safari does have such a reader feature, but you still have to stay on the Internet to read an article.

But, really, how easy are these apps to use?” I’m glad you asked that question. I’ll provide an example of how easy they are using Instapaper (follow the same steps in Pocket for the same results).

Below is a web article in Safari as it appears on my phone before integrating it to Instapaper.

Look at those unsightly ads cluttering up my reading space.

Once the webpage to the article is open, just click on the arrow at the bottom of the Safari window. This brings up the Instapaper icon (see below), then all you do is tap the icon. That’s it.

Just tap that Instapaper icon and you’re done.

The article automatically gets sent to Instapaper and the next time you open the Instapaper app, the article is in your reading cue.

Now when I open the above article in Instapaper, this is how it looks.

All the ads are gone. Thank you, Instapaper.

Making those obscene ads vanish is what makes these apps so marvelous.

In the following example from Instapaper, I changed the background to beige, increased the font size, and changed the font from Lyon to Helvetica.

It’s simple to make an article easy on your eyes.

Another great feature is that Instapaper syncs between all your devices so the articles I save in Instapaper on my phone can be read on my iPad without any further action taken on my part.

And Pocket does the same thing, however, Pocket also has an app for the Mac whereas Instapaper does not. So saving/reading/accessing articles on your Mac can be done with the Pocket app. This is a definite advantage for Pocket. If you want to save/access/read your Instapaper articles on your Mac, you will need to use your browser to access the Instapaper site.

Screenshot of the Pocket app on author’s Mac.

Both apps retain images and videos that are embedded in the original Internet article, so if the article contained a Vimeo video, for example, it will also be in the Instapaper and Pocket versions, and will be playable. (Note: although you don’t need an Internet connection to read articles stored in these apps, if you intend on watching a video that’s embedded in an article, you will still need an Internet connection for that.)

The best news is both of these apps are free. And although I’ve been happy using the free version of these apps, if you want to upgrade to the premium versions, these are their current costs:

POCKET

$4.99 monthly

$44.99 annually

INSTAPAPER

$2.99 monthly

$29.99 annually

Although you get the basic idea of why I recommend these apps, there are more features that come with each of them that I don’t have the space to cover here — and even more features can be found in their paid versions.

Screenshot of Pocket app logo on author’s phone.

I will conclude with a brief comparison between the free versions of the two apps, and each app’s greatest pro and con.

Interface

Winner: Tie

User friendliness

Winner: Tie

Ability to change font style, font size, and background color

Winner: Tie

Text-To-Speech feature

Winner: Pocket

Included for free in Pocket, but only available in premium version in Instapaper.

Ads

Winner: Instapaper

You will not find ads in the free version of Instapaper, but the free version of Pocket displays a sponsored ad in your reader’s cue.

Pocket screenshot from author’s phone: notice the eBay ad.

Desktop app

Winner: Pocket

Pocket has an app for the Mac, Instapaper does not.

Cost for premium

Winner: Instapaper

Instapaper is $2 less per month — and $15 less annually — than Pocket.

My greatest pro and con for each app

Pro for Pocket: Text-to-speech is free, easy to use, and actually works.

Con for Pocket: Ads show up in reader cue.

Pro for Instapaper: Reader cue remains ad free.

Con for Instapaper: Text-to-speech is only available in the paid version.

For those who read a lot of articles online, these apps are a must-have. Which one you choose is up to you as they’re both so similar I can’t suggest one over the other, although after dabbling with both of these apps for the past two months, I find myself using Pocket exclusively for the text-to-speech feature, and Instapaper exclusively for all my reading.

Check them both out today for iOS and Android (and yes, in case you were wondering, both apps work with Medium articles, too).


J.L. Pattison has no connection, affiliation, or interest (personal, financial, or otherwise) to Instapaper or Pocket, other than liking the apps so much he decided to make others aware of their existence by writing this article.

When J.L. Pattison is not reading other people’s articles or writing his own, he turns coffee into books. Find out more at JLPattison.com, and join his mailing list here.