To me, what makes for a great read-it-later service is a combination of things. I want to be able to save an article/link from anywhere: laptop, iPad, iPhone, PC. I want to be able to read comfortably from anywhere too. And I want it all to be synced/interconnected through a single account.
There’s a lot of read-it-later services but very few have great iPhone apps accompanying them. That’s why it often looks like the world of read-it-later apps is dominated by three players: Instapaper (my favorite), Pocket (the first Read It Later guy) and Readability (the best in design aesthetic).
There are a few other apps that cater to the read-it-later market. But very few are even half as good as the trio above.
Best Read-it-later Apps For the iPhone: Save Articles to Read Later
While not the first to the scene, Instapaper (developed by Marco Arment, now sold to Betaworks) is one of the best read-it-later apps built for the iPhone. I have been using Instapaper and it’s become a part of my life so much so that it’s the reigning favorite. Instapaper combines simplicity, usability and a very powerful backend that works fast.
With Instapaper, you have bookmarklets for all popular browsers and that makes it an universal service. That’s what counts because you keep shunting between the iPhone and Mac and you want the flexibility of being able to save and read articles from anywhere. Instapaper clearly offers this flexibility.
While Instapaper’s minimalism is a treat to use, you’ll probably feel constricted when you figure out that there’s no search option. Or auto-categorization. Or that sometimes, the iPhone app doesn’t cache/save images or videos correctly. It still wins for me because most of the articles are just words.
“Read It Later”, as it was called earlier, is probably one of the first services to find an app backing the web-based read-it-later service. Pocket goes well beyond Instapaper in many ways and opens up a lot of limitations that Instapaper enforces through lack of features (all completely justified because Instapaper was trying to be the minimalist of the lot).
Being a veteran in the read-it-later market, Pocket is supported by countless other apps where you might find links to save. Besides this, like Instapaper, Pocket as a solid library of browser addons which makes it easy to save/bookmark links to Pocket.
A redesign turned Pocket into a fantastic app with a great, minimalist user-interface. Features like tags, favorites and quick search makes Pocket stand out as one of the most perfect read-it-later apps for the iPhone.
I have always been a fan of Readability’s web interface, for the gorgeous use of fancy serif fonts and for the minimalism. Like Pocket and Instapaper, Readability comes with as much fanfare (read addons) as you’d expect out of a legendary read-it-later app.
Readability is not extensively coded to have all the features of a typical bookmarking app. It works on the bare essentials but does a fantastic job of it. No fancy graphics, no fancy effects and no fancy features. You get to check your bookmarks/saved links, archive them and/or favorite them. The clutter-free minimalist reading interface on the iPhone is more like a toned down version of the web-version itself.
Evernote Clearly is a service that functions as read-it-later. The limitation is that it works on the web browser through addons. But the trick is, what you save on Evernote Clearly, is synced to your Evernote app on the iPhone/iPad. And that helps if you are not very particular about a clutter-free, clearly-scrapped interface on the iOS device.
Outread is actually a speed-reading app but the fact that it connects to your Instapaper, Pocket or Readability account makes it a worthwhile read-it-later client. You’d have to purchase this app but the investment is worth it if you plan on catching up with all your saved articles faster than most people.
Price: $4.99 (for a limited time, $2.99)
Reeder is strictly a RSS feed reader client but it supports Readability, giving me an excuse to add this wonderful app to the list. Reeder v2.0 is heavily driven by gestures. The app does get a little sophisticated if you’re looking for an absolute read-it-later app but if you like a clutter-free interface, Reeder should be good to go.