Instapaper vs. Pocket (2019 Comparison)

The “Read It Later” Standoff — Comparing features in todays reading apps

It’s that time of year again — everyone is making new year’s resolutions they won’t keep… So in the theme of a new beginning, let’s try to at least declutter our smartphone home-screens and think about which “read it later” apps we’ll use to “read more”. So let’s get right to it!
Slightly Unrelated Photo of Somebody Reading on Unsplash

Last updated March 16. 2019

Table of Contents


TL;DR

Instapaper — The clean minimalist hipster
Choose Instapaper, if your focus is reading or speed-reading and you enjoy a clean interface with a polished hierarchy!

Pocket — The loud playful modernist
Go with Pocket, if you enjoy a playful design and like to listen to articles with their unrivalled text-to-speech feature!

Pricing

Both Instapaper and Pocket offer a free and a premium version of their services:

  • Instapaper Monthly — $2.99
  • Instapaper Yearly — $29.99 (15% off)
  • Pocket Monthly — $4.99
  • Pocket Yearly — $44.99 (25% off)

Equivalent Features

Both services offer the following more evident features:

  • Save unlimited articles, videos, and other pages for reading later
  • Sync across web, iOS, and Android
  • Bookmarklets to quickly add links
  • Explore/Browse to discover new content and follow friends
  • Like/Favorite to mark special content
  • Archiving articles to remove them from the main list
  • Highlights to mark pieces of text (limited amount in free version)

Design

Instapaper gives more of a newspaper-feel and looks very lean, polished, and clean. Pocket on the other hand feels quite bold and colorful using rather playful icons. Nevertheless, design is very subjective so please compare the following screenshots for yourself.

Screenshot of Instapaper Web
Screenshot of Pocket Web
Screenshots of Instapaper (left) and Pocket (right) iOS Apps

Advantages

Instapaper

  • Price
    At $2.99 monthly Instapaper costs nearly half as much as Pocket
  • Speed-Reading
    Instapaper comes with a feature that offers a Spritz like experience for speed-reading
  • Notes
    In addition to highlighting, Instapaper users can add Notes to any sections of text (limited amount in free version)
Screenshot of adding highlights and notes in Instapaper iOS App
  • Extensible Reader
    Instapaper offers more fonts and reading options for free (e.g. line-height, page width). Although Pocket has added more fonts and options in their premium version as well
Screenshot of reading options in Instapaper

Pocket

  • Tagging
    Articles Pocket allows multiple tags per article (instead of Instapapers’ option of categorizing articles in folders)
  • Desktop App
    Even though it is a bit outdated, Pocket users can download the native desktop app and even use macOS continuity features
  • Text-to-Speech
    Pocket offers one of the best and most natural text-to-speech services out there, which is can also be used in a playlist-style audio playback that continues to the next unread article once finished (Pocket uses Amazon Polly, which sounds amazing)
Screenshot of Pockets’ iOS App Text-to-Speech feature with queued articles
  • Instant Tagging
    Pocket allows users to instantly tag articles when adding via bookmarklet or mobile extensions
Screenshot of tagging when saving articles in Pocket

Problems

Instapaper

  • Instapaper offers text-to-speech, but it sounds very basic and unnatural (Instapaper uses the device built-in speech APIs, e.g. Siri on iOS)
  • Using folders instead of tags, it is not possible to tag something with multiple tags
  • Instapapers’ Browse feature to discover new articles looks very dull and monotonous because it does not show thumbnails for articles

Pocket

  • Pocket is pretty expensive if you don’t use it a lot or are looking for a simple bookmark solution
  • Most of Pocket’s reading options are only available in the premium version
  • Pocket does not offer speed-reading
  • Highlighting is sometimes slow and delayed (often makes it look like the highlighting didn’t work, even when it did)

UPDATE: Add notes on text-to-speech APIs, after contacting both companies


Thanks for reading — feel free to comment!
What did you love, what did you hate?


I’m the creator of Grasp and not affiliated with Instapaper nor Pocket. I have not been paid to write anything covered in this article. I chose to write this comparison when I myself was deciding which product to use…