Instapaper has been integral for how I consume information since I first got an iPhone. The core concept is that as you're reading news, instead of reading each article, you save the article to Instapaper. This allows you to have separate "triage" and "reading" steps. It also has the benefits of:
- Nicely formatting articles into a consistent format (which I find better helps me consume a lot of information)
- Enabling offline reading. Very convenient for flights.
- Text-to-speech gives me the poor-man's podcast version of the article.
Unfortunately, Instapaper went through several ownership changes, the pace of updates has slowed to just a few a year, and the article parsing has slowly gotten worse. The number of papercut problems finally got me looking for an alternative.
In doing this research, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are many companies working on this problem and the feature set has expanded beyond what Instapaper offers. Tagging is now a common feature which means I can have one source of truth for my article archive. Text-to-speech quality has improved quite a bit as well. Some apps have built in RSS.
I haven't settled on a replacement yet, so this is where my research is today. These are the top 3 apps that I’m currently testing out:
- Looks the best
- Is the least complicated interface—this is good!
- Can import from Instapaper
- Is free, but for $60/year, it introduces:
- Has an interesting ability to follow authors
- High quality voices for text-to-speech
- The fact that it has a business model gives me some confidence it won’t die off
- It’s article parsing seems fine, but so far seems to be the least good of the apps I’m looking at
Overall: This is probably the right choice for you.
- $96 yearly, there’s a free trial, but you will need to pay. Again, I like that there’s a business model, but this is expensive.
- This is the most powerful app I’m testing. It’s got a lot of advanced features (e.g. using AI to summarize an article).
- It’s article parsing is probably the best
- It has a built-in RSS reader and can also receive email newsletters, making it a nearly one-stop home for both finding and reading
- The speech to text is decent, and there’s AI voices coming
- There’s a fully featured web app
- It can import from Instapaper and numerous other services
- This would be my recommendation, but its performance is awful. It can take over a minute to start up on my iPad. This is directly related to the fact that I have tens of thousands of articles in my archive, so if you have only a few articles and/or are willing to delete your archive, this likely wouldn’t be a problem. They claim they’re fixing this, but we’ll see.
Overall: Pricey, probably has a lot of features you won’t need. If they fix the performance, this will likely be my choice.
- Somewhat of a mix between the previous two in terms of simplicity of the interface and complexity offered
- No Instapaper import, but it can import from some other services
- Like Reader, it has RSS & email newsletter support
- The article parser is good.
- My attempt to import my large instapaper archive errored out.
- Text-to-speech is fine, and they’re working on AI voices
- Uniquely, it’s open source software. While I love open source, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for this app because it needs to rely on servers to parse the articles and sync between devices which means there’s an ongoing cost that someone needs to pay. They claim they will introduce a paid plan in the future.
- Has a very capable web app.
Overall: No business model yet, very geeky choice. Probably avoid for now.