The Sweet Setup compares Instapaper and Pocket

July 8, 2015

I touched on this topic a couple of weeks ago, but I think Robert McGinley Myers managed to convey my thoughts and feelings in a more concise manner, so I want to review the article. He ultimately picked Instapaper as the winner on the basis that it is superior for reading—that, I think, is true. But his problems with the service echoed my own as well:

Its biggest drawback, in my opinion, is how it handles images. Some articles, like a review from The Sweet Setup, show up in the Instapaper app with images intact. But other articles, like a review of the 20 Best New Sour Beers in the World, arrive in Instapaper with no images at all.

Also, something I forgot to touch on:

Instapaper also doesn’t do a great job with videos. There is a folder in the app for saved videos, but it only works if you’re saving videos directly from a video site like Youtube or Vimeo. If the video is embedded into a blog post from something like Kottke.org, Instapaper doesn’t recognize that it’s a video and simply saves the text.

These big two points are the key reasons why I claimed that Pocket “handles media better.” If all you are doing is reading words, then Instapaper is unbeatable—but I send a ton of image-heavy articles and videos to it, and they don’t get processed well at all. It’s incredibly frustrating.

In any case, Robert concluded that Pocket “does a better job of parsing images” and “also does a better job of handling videos,” but also made a point of addressing Pocket’s more colorful personality, which does indeed feel more inviting, especially when half of your queue contains images. Indeed, Instapaper often feels like I’m picking up a newspaper, whereas Pocket feels more like a “media bucket.”

He finishes the Pocket review with a neat idea:

That said, I come away from this review thinking I might start using Pocket as a research tool. Pocket’s tagging features, search capability, and permanent library make it an attractive option for when I’m compiling material to write about, rather than material I just want to read for pleasure.

I’d hate to be that weirdo with both Instapaper and Pocket on his homescreen, using both for different reasons; it’s certainly inefficient, but might lend itself to a more delightful experience. For the record, I’ve switched back to Instapaper.