I use Instapaper more than I use almost any other app. Developed by Marco Arment, the original developer at Tumblr so that he would have great material to read on his way to work, Instapaper fills a need that you didn’t know you had: it gives you the ability to send interesting articles you find on the internet to your phone or tablet so you can read it later; even if ‘later’ has no internet connection.
By clicking on a little button in your browser, the content of whatever page you have open is stripped of ads, given basic formatting and sent to your phone or tablet. By opening the app on your device, you download the barebones article and can read it whenever you want. This even works with multi-page articles like some newspapers or magazine sites use. 90% of the time the formatting works perfectly, the other 10% of time it ranges from getting extraneous text, such as menus, at the top of the post (www.gizmodo.co.uk I’m looking at you) to being completely unreadable. However, Instapaper overcomes this by having a built in browser. The browser is also great for quickly following up on links in the articles.
Instapaper also integrates with other apps I use a lot like Twitter and Reeder, a RSS reader. The only app it does not integrate wish that I wish it did is facebook – but that is hardly Marco’s fault. In total, Instapaper integrates with almost 150 other apps!
One of my favourite features of Instapaper is the cross device syncing. If I start reading an article on my iPhone I can pick up at exactly the same spot on my iPad and vice versa. The iPad is a much more pleasant device to read on but I have it with me much less; it’s great to be able to start something on my iPhone when I’m out and then continue it once I’m at home with the iPad.
Instapaper has made me read a lot of long-form journalism. Articles that originally appear in Time or Esquire that you won’t, or can’t, read at your computer are perfect for reading over breakfast or on the bus. Instapaper has also made it really easy to find these articles with “The Feature” – a curated collection of the articles sent most to Instapaper. I have found some fantastic article through it.
Instapaper is available on the iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android and Kindle. The phone and table apps work as expected, click a button in your browser and the link is sent to your device. The kindle service works a little differently; a collection of up to ten unread articles are sent to your kindle either daily or weekly.
Instapaper is not free – it’s €2.99. It’s worth every cent. I have read more newspaper and magazine articles on Instapaper than in the paper equivalent in the last year. I’m happy to pay the price of one paper or magazine for such a fantastic tool. If you aren’t, then Instapaper isn’t for you – but you’re missing out.
There are free alternatives to it that I have checked out and they simply don’t stack up to Instapaper. The alternatives often bill themselves as having more features however, all the extra features are useless if the basic ones are poorly implemented. In particular, cross device syncing is a big test – and Instapaper is the only one that passed properly.