Instapaper is an original. It’s one of those apps that has always been there — greater than all and challenged by few. Instapaper is one of the oldest apps on the App Store and has introduced many new buyers to the power of the iPhone. Pocket is an equally great app that supports more platforms than Instapaper and is used by a sizeable population. But there is something that keeps me harnessed to that original app.
Read-it-later services are dependent on their reading experience. It’s easy to save articles for later, to view them in a nice list and to read a short summary in that list. But what sets Instapaper apart from its competitors is its reading experience. Instapaper’s customizable options, like line height, article width and font choice can make a perfect combination for anyone. Pocket’s customization doesn’t allow for font choices or article width changes and this inhibits its reading experience. Pocket does so many things right, but the barebones reading experience falls short. Instapaper has managed to master the customizable experience better than any other read-it-later app on the App Store.
I’ve always felt that good typography begets a good reading experience. Elena, Lyon and Tisa make Instapaper a serif-lover’s dream. I’m especially a fan of Elena. It has a certain element to it that makes it neither whispy or minimal, allowing your eyes to float from one word to the next with relative ease. Elena lends Instapaper a level of elegance that isn’t found in many other apps.
This isn’t to say that sans-serif fans won’t be pleased either. H&FJ’s Ideal Sans is increasingly a favourite on many popular sites and Adobe’s Proxima Nova has a simplistic approach which is becoming prevalent throughout the web. Both are offered for Instapaper’s sans-serif aficianados. Again, Instapaper’s customizable reading experience, no matter your personal taste, is simply the best out there.
Many people will say that Pocket’s uniform service across all devices allows for a better read-it-later experience. I respectfully disagree. The purpose of a read-it-later service is to read something at a more convenient time and in a more convenient place. If you use your read-it-later service as a place to store an interesting video you found on Twitter, I think you’re using the service wrong.
Like Unread, Vesper and other opinionated pieces of software, Instapaper chooses to nail one aspect of its service better than any other app. In fact, I would venture to say that opinionated software began with Instapaper. Apps like Unread and Vesper have made design choices to limit how a user can perform certain tasks in exchange for simplicity, beauty and user experience — a trend that began with Instapaper in 2008.
Instapaper is my read-it-later app of choice because of its unmatched reading experience. Once another app can do the reading part better than Instapaper, I’ll be glad to give it a try. For now, I’m happy with one of the oldest apps on the App Store.