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Comparing “read later” apps on Android

by Marty Gabel

Instapaper is one of the most praised "read later" Android apps. Is it good enough to ditch a similar service you already use in favor of the iOS all-star? Let’s look at some of the other apps that offer similar functionality so you can decide which is right for you.

Instapaper ($2.99)

A $2.99 investment will get you a quality app with similar functionality to its acclaimed iOS counterpart. If you’re browsing the web during the day (on any device) and find an article you don’t have time to read right now, simply click “Read Later” and the article will be saved. Your Android smartphone or tablet will display the story free of clutter, perfectly formatted for your device’s screen. Instapaper creator, Marco Arment entrusted app designer Mobelux (who worked on the beautiful-looking Tumblr app) and they did a fine job here too. The app’s design is crisp, efficient and it’s easy to use. As Instapaper was just released, expect updates and further enhancements in the future.

Readability (Free)

Readability is free, so that might make it more attractive to folks who don’t want to drop $3 on Instapaper right away. Like Instapaper, you’ll need to sign-up at the Readability site and install a plug-in for your browser, then you can begin saving articles to read later. The app offers a clean and elegant, single-column reading view with some beautiful typography provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. It also offers an unlimited, searchable archive of favorites and easy sharing via your social networks. Reviews in the Google Play store, however, are somewhat mixed, but future updates and that free price tag may convince many to give it a shot.

Pocket (Free)

It’s worth noting that there used to be both paid and free versions of the Read It Later app. Now, with it rebranding as Pocket, the app is free for everyone. In addition, the functionality and design of the app improved greatly, so Pocket is well worth a look. Like the two apps above, Pocket lets you save articles for later, strips out ads and presents them in a streamlined manner when offline. It even includes the bonus feature of being able to save videos for later, but you’ll need to be connected to view these. Pocket works on tablets and smartphones and while most of its improvements have been welcomed, some find the new dark theme not as black as it was in the Read It Later days.

Google Currents (Free)

Google Currents offers a magazine-style way to consume news content on your Android smartphone or tablet. You pick your sources and Current finds the latest articles and presents them in a handy magazine format. So why is it in this list? Well, like many other Google offerings, it has the capability to store the articles and news sources you’ve chosen for offline reading. That way, you can pile up a bunch of different stories from your favorites, sync them, and they will be available for you later. It’s a little different to picking and choosing articles like you do with Instapaper, Pocket or Readability, but it’s still a handy, free way to read news from your favorite sources when you’re not connected. Just don’t forget to sync!