Instapaper has been a long time coming on Android. Its developer, Marco Arment, famously does not like Android, much prefering Apple’s platform, iOS - the OS which he first made Instapaper for. Finally, it has arrived on Android, with a $2.99 price tag and some very happy users.
Instapaper is a ‘read later’ service. It allows you to save any article on the web for reading later, on your phone, tablet, web or Kindle. But it does more than this – it also formats the article so it removes all the adverts from the side of the article, and all the navigation chrome from the edges. Instapaper appears to do this very well, making it very easy to read an article. It is very nice to be able to sit down with my tablet on a nice comfy chair and read a long article without having the distractions of an article on the web.
So, let’s get down to business: the Android app.
First and foremost, the Android app is official and from the outset, it definitely looks the part. It is Holo themed, which makes the app feel native to the platform, and generally follows the Android design guidelines very well.
When you open the app after purchasing and downloading it, you are asked to sign in or log in. I am led to believe this is similar to the iOS app in function and form, but nevertheless: this screen is pretty, with its textured backgrounds and Holo themed text boxes.
Once you’re logged in, you are greeted with a screen saying ‘Read Later’, ‘Liked’, and ‘Archive’. Read Later is a general place where the articles you have marked on the web for reading later go (more on this soon), Liked is where the articles you have marked as you ‘like’ them go, and Archive is a folder for all the old articles which you no longer want in your active reading list. This isn’t all on this opening screen – you also have an action bar up the top, saying ‘Instapaper’, alongside the icon. To the right of this, you have 2 – or maybe 3, depending what device you’re on – icons. One is a + icon, to add new folders, and the other is to edit or delete these folders. On the action overflow, there is refresh and settings.
In short, this screen is very nicely set up. It is minimal, but that’s all it needs to be. It is functional and not at all distracting, like most of in the Instapaper service.
The reading screen is the most important part of the app.Like the iOS part of the app, it is very minimal, letting you focus on reading – which of course, is the most important thing. I guess a good analogy would be from Paul Miller, of The Verge – he said when he reviewed Amazon’s Kindle Touch, that he felt the hardware of the device was so minimal it almost ‘disappeared while you read’. This certainly is true with the Instapaper platform, on both iOS and Android.
The app has a few options – you can change the font, make the text bigger or smaller, change the line spacing, the display brightness, turn on dark mode, and the padding on the left and right.
This is all very good, but it’s still missing some (to some people, crucial) features. Like the ability to turn on full screen reading, pagination (I’m personally hoping for the nice animation the iOS app has), a friend’s recommendations feature, and searching for the users who pay $1 p/month for advanced features. Mobelux, the app’s developer, (Marco Arment, who singlehandedly develops the iOS app, didn’t want to dirty his hands with Android) has confirmed these features are coming, and they are committed to getting it up to par as the iOS app. So we can only wait and be patient.
In the meantime, we can enjoy what this app has to offer. It’s a very good app – although it doesn’t have all the features its main rival, Pocket, has, it still manages to compete because of how much credibility Instapaper has. Pocket has the ability to save YouTube videos to watch later, which has put many Android users off Instapaper, but really, that isn’t the point of this app. The point is reading, and only that.