Instapaper vs. Pocket: Battle of the bookmarkers

Instapaper recently made its way onto the Android platform, where Pocket previously reigned supreme. We take a look at both apps, and pick our winner of this battle of the bookmarkers.

When you're on the go, it might not always make sense to dive into that lengthy article or start watching that 6-minute video, all on your mobile device. That's when a short-term bookmarking app comes in handy.

A bookmarker lets you put lengthy articles or videos away with just a couple of taps, so you can easily queue them up for reading and watching later, from any of your devices, including your desktop. On Android, the longtime fan favorite has been Pocket (formerly Read It Later). But with iOS-darling Instapaper entering the fold, the stage has been set for a possible new top dog.

Screenshot of a story from espn.go.com, as rendered by Instapaper

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)

Instapaper ($2.99)
Thanks to Android's Share menu, Instapaper can save items for later in just a few taps. Whether you're doing your reading in a browser, a news reader app, or somewhere else, you can pull up the Android Share menu, and choose Instapaper to instantly cache your current page for easy access later. To save space, the cached version of the page is saved sans ads, comments, and other peripheral images. What's more, your cached content syncs to your account, so you can pull it up on your other mobile devices (where Instapaper is installed) or on your desktop computer through Instapaper.com.

When you open up Instapaper, all of your content is front and center, under your Read Later list. There are buttons to toggle between Read Later items, Archive, and Liked items. You can even create folders to further organize your saved items, and move items around by tapping the pencil icon on the top right. What you can't do, though, is search through your list or browse by media type.

With its sleek monochromatic skin, Instapaper feels very much like an e-reader. It lets you adjust elements like brightness, text size, line spacing, and column width, plus you can select any of six different fonts. There's also a Dark Mode, which gives you white text on a dark background, for better viewing at nighttime.

Finally, the Settings menu lets you set Instapaper's download limits. By default, Instapaper keeps the 100 latest items in your Read Later list, 10 latest on your Liked list, and 10 latest in your Archive. Any older items can only be accessed in your account on Instapaper.com.

Screenshot of the same story from espn.go.com, as rendered by Pocket

(Credit: Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET)

Pocket (free)
And then, there's Pocket, the successor to the megapopular short-term bookmarking tool Read It Later. While it does share some of the same core functionality as Instapaper, it also offers quite a few unique features.

Once you've signed up for a required Pocket account, saving items to your list is simple. Whether you're reading an article in a browser or news reader app, or watching a video in the YouTube app, you can hit Menu and share the page with Pocket. From there, Pocket will determine the best way to cache your content (text-only article view or Web view). Videos and image-heavy pages are excluded from the caching, of course. And all content can be stored on your SD card, unless you elect otherwise.

One thing I love about Pocket is that it automatically displays the best version of your saved content, whenever you access an item on your list. So, if you're coming back to a text-heavy article, Pocket will show you the stripped-down, cached version of the page. On the other hand, if you're coming back to an image-heavy gallery or a YouTube video, Pocket might activate your data connection and pull up the original page on the Web. This is a marked difference from Instapaper, which gives you a stripped-down version, no matter what. As you can imagine, a text-only version of a YouTube page is quite useless.

Pocket for Android is also really good at organizing your saved items. It lets you sort through your content by type (text, video, or image), and even edit items in bulk. There's also a built-in search bar, in case your list gets extremely long.

When you're finished with items on your Pocket list, you can check them off to move them to your Read Archive. It's a great safeguard in case you missed something and want to see already-viewed content again.


The winner
Hands down, my vote goes to Pocket because it is just flat-out better at handling content. It decides an optimal way to cache and display your items, depending on the type of content you're saving (video, image, text). Plus, it offers more ways to search through and organize your list. Not to mention, it's free. Lastly, Pocket looks better. With a brighter interface and more attractive font choices, Pocket puts Instapaper's monochrome scheme to shame.

CNET Top 5
Companies Apple could buy with their billions
Apple's sitting on a massive pile of cash. Here are five interesting ways they could spend it.
Play Video
 

Member Comments