I used to be a really loyal Instapaper user because I loved the reading experience inside of the app. I still do,
and it’s still great, but I find myself slowly preferring Safari’s Reading List more. If you’re not familiar with Instapaper, it’s a read-later service for storing articles (like this one) for reading later on, at your leisure. Throwing something into Instapaper is different than just bookmarking, because each article has a read status, and you can archive articles you’ve already read. In addition, Instapaper crawls the page for just the content, and strips it away from the website’s UI, providing a clean and consistent reading experience. Instapaper can also intelligently save your content intermittently in the background, so it’s available for reading even without an Internet connection.
In comparison, Reading List is a feature that lives within the Safari browser. A quick tap on the bookmark icon and another tap on the glasses icon will get you to your Reading List. Adding links is as easy as tapping and holding them within any app that detects hyperlinks.
I find myself using fewer and fewer apps these days, and one of the reasons that Reading List is appealing is because it lives right inside of Safari. It also mimics (Sherlocked?) many of Instapaper’s features, right down to the offline reading, “Reader view”, and read vs. unread status. The big difference is that Reading List can cache an entire webpage for offline reading, which means that I can see a 1:1 version of the article in the way that the author wanted me to see it — pictures, themes, and all. I like this because it’s a great way to see sites I don’t normally follow, and I know the article layout is as it should be. Instapaper has refined its text crawling over the years, but it still has occasional hiccups with captions. Some image captions can read like they’re paragraphs, and some sites (like the New York Times) actively work against serviceslike Instapaper.
I haven’t had to change my habits much in adjusting to Reading List. It’s available most anywhere that I can tap and hold on a link, and it’s available on all of my iOS and OS X devices, just like Instapaper. One of the noticeable tradeoffs has been that Instapaper remembers where you left off in a longer article, whereas Reading List does not. However, seeing as I don’t read long form New Yorker articles every week, this hasn’t affected me too much.
Instapaper is still awesome, but I’m really surprised how useful Reading List has turned out to be. I’d recommend it as a great, lightweight alternative to the dedicated Read-Later apps on the App Store.