Why Instapaper for Android Is Not That Great

Instapaper, the bookmarking app for iOS devices, launched an Android version a few months back. With similar read-it-later apps in the Play Store, this app seemed to be a worthy competitor… or so I assumed.

The actual experience, unfortunately, is not what I expected from a best-selling, highly reviewed, paid app. Here are three reasons why Instapaper for Android is not that great – at least not right now.

Limited Features

I’ve read a lot of rave reviews about Instapaper from iPhone users. I was at a loss when they talked about some features they thought were great. I later found out that these features – which make Instapaper stand out from all others – are not present in the Android app. Tilt scrolling (a feature that scrolls articles automatically by tilting the device), content discovery, and built-in social sharing are key features missing in Android. Simple functions like full screen and pagination are also not present.

Instapaper Home Screens

Without them, Instapaper for Android is a stripped down version of the iOS app. As a result,  Android users might not appreciate this app as much as they would its iOS counterpart.

Better Alternatives

Pocket (reviewed here) and Readability, two other similar apps, are simply packed with more flexibility and functionality. Pocket is attractive with its colorful, modern UI while Readability offers a polished, minimalist look and lots of sharing options. The best thing about these apps? They’re free.

Free and better alternatives

Okay, so Instapaper’s price of $2.99 is not a lot of money, but a notable investment towards an app should give you something in return, other than the absence of ads. I fail to see that with Instapaper. The iOS version costs a dollar more, but considering the features that are available, it’s an acceptable price to pay. Sadly, it’s not the same with Android.

Developer Issues

In the App Store, the seller of Instapaper is Marco Arment, who is the sole developer of the app. However, the Android version reflects Mobelux as the developer’s name. Arment, who is known to have expressed his non-interest in the Android platform, collaborated with Mobelux to build the app.

The Mobelux developer site confirms that this is the official Android version of the app, while at the same time saying that not all iOS features are available. Even on the Instapaper website, Android is not in the list of platforms for the app.

Android not in the list

This certainly makes me feel like the Android presence is not proudly acknowledged and is being placed behind the limelight – which might not really be an issue as long as the app works great.

In addition, it also feels like the need to make this app work across all platforms is more important than the app itself. Whatever the reason is behind the invisible treatment, it makes the app look less credible and a consumer’s discerning eye might just see through that.

Conclusion

Every new app has growing pains – some more than others. In this case, it was obviously enough to write about. Having purchased Instapaper for Android, I had no choice but to use it as much as I can. At this point, the more I use the app, the more I am convinced it’s simply not “there” yet. iOS users who might want to use this on other Android devices are likely to be disappointed with its missing features.

Although my experience with this app is far from what I expected, I do admire its minimalist UI and will hold on to it in hopes that future updates will fill in the gaps that are sorely missing. Instapaper has the potential to be a good cross-platform app – but right now it should first be a better Android app.


  • http://www.crwd.it Cheope

    I totally agree. I’m a mac user and I quickly switched from Instantpaper to Read it later (Pocket) just because of its better Android app.

  • Craig

    I like Instapaper’s minimalism, and it’s win over the other two is you can double tap the article and have it fill the *full* screen (no distracting clock or notifications, all article. I also set it to white text on black background all the time, nice and clean)

    I tried Readability just now, it’s interface is not that intuitive, the archived articles are not accessible (that I could easily see), and the “night” mode was on a grey background (why not solid back, grey wastes my battery unnecessarily – actually that makes it a fail).

    But I agree on Pocket, I just recently re-installed it (used it years ago as read-it-later) and found it attractive and usable (you can tag separately from archive, unlike instapaper).

    Where Pocket is a win is it’s integration into the desktop and it’s website as well, all of it is just so well designed, attractive, and integrates intuitively into my web browser as well…. no only if it could get a true full screen reading mode in the app.

    • Craig

      (“its”, lol)

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      Agreed. I was using Read It Later for a long time, but the lack of a (decent) Chrome extension was starting to get on my nerves. I tried Readability for a while, and although the UI was quite clean, I missed Pocket’s integration, tags, and other features. Eventually, I went back to Pocket and I haven’t regretted it.

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