Giving Pocket a Second Chance

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When Read It Later presented its completely revamped self as Pocket, I dusted off my account credentials and gave it a quick look. Five minutes later and I had already turned my nose up at it, playing the role of the Instapaper I-payed-$5-for-this-app-and-now-a-better-and-free-alternative-comes-along snob.

I’m not sure why I didn’t give it a proper chance back in April, but thankfully I decided to give it a second chance today. So here are 4 reasons I favour in Pocket over Instapaper.

1. Interface | Design | Experience

Pocket is beautiful. Really, it’s pretty to look at, responds snappily like any good web app should which takes it beyond a static experience. Instapaper is static, less easy to use and somewhat ironically, has a terribly cluttered interface (in my experience).

Both the website and iOS version of Pocket have two great article display modes, one more like a magazine, and a details/ list view. I am easily able to filter articles by date, title, site, tags or media type.

2. Considerate Media Handling

The team at Pocket is actively tweaking its ‘Article View’ engine (for reading later, distraction free) so it will always display content how it is intended. Whether it be images, videos or lengthy articles from The Verge, Pocket will handle it gracefully.

Instapaper can be a bit hit and miss and while no reading view will be perfect, at least Pocket is showing it cares.

3. Search

Pocket comes with search, for free! Instapaper charges $1/month to use article search. This lets me replace my old (and pretty crappy, to be honest) system of exporting to Delicious. I don’t really use this much, but just the thought of being able to cut free from yet another service makes this a very welcome feature.

However, I found a bug (I think) when searching in the Archive. See this link.

4. Price

This isn’t really a huge issue for me any more, but for agnostics not yet devoted to either service, I’m sure it will be a huge deciding factor. Instapaper is ~$5 for the iOS app and $1/month for some other features. Pocket is all free.

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There are still some things I miss from Instapaper/ would like to see in Pocket. So here is my Pocket wishlist:

  • Better pagination on mobile. Include features like the smooth transition and bullet point progress bar from Instapaper.
  • More readily available links to original content. Currently Pocket only makes the domain available from the reading list, not the original link. You must click through to the ‘Article View’ to find the original (unless I’m missing something).
  • Business model. I don’t want to see ads start appearing in my feed, nor do I want to see Pocket fade away. How are they going to monetize their new product? I only want to support you, Pocket.

I still haven’t completely removed Instapaper from my life. It still holds a prime position in my Chrome bookmarks bar (both my Unread list and the bookmarklet) and it’s still on my iPhone’s home screen.

I think as life goes on, I will fall into the Pocket camp entirely, as they have shown they are willing to change for the better and the change will be ongoing. Instapaper, with its one man army, will struggle, I fear, to keep its position of¬†supremacy. Pocket has opened up bookmarking to the masses it seems, as Evernote has done with note syncing and Dropbox with file sharing; by presenting it in a friendly, easy to use way, that doesn’t feel geeky. And yes… I think Pocket has the kind of potential where it is appropriate to be compared to those companies…

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