Pocket is the redesigned and rebranded version of the Read It Later Service that I have recently fallen in love with. I have used the Instapaper service for years and have been very happy with it. I even paid the $5 for the Instapaper iPhone app, which I think by the way is much too expensive. Before Read It Later became Pocket, Instapaper was the superior service, but now the tables have turned.
Sometimes I want to save more than text
One thing that Pocket does better than Instapaper is handling other content types. Instapaper may be great for text, but it fails short when it comes to multimedia. Blog posts which include mixed media types are not handled well, and the multimedia is often omitted from Instapaper. Pocket not only does a better job with this, but it also allows you quickly filter by media type, whether it be articles, images, or videos.
Tagging in Pocket is better than Folders in Instapaper
Perhaps the greatest advantage that Pocket has over Instapaper is tagging. The folder system in Instapaper is a bit slow to use on the mobile app and isn’t good if you want to place an article into multiple categories (i.e., folders). Tagging solves the multiple category problem and the web & mobile interfaces both make it a fast and easy task to organize your reading.
Read Later is a great Desktop client that works with both Pocket and Instapaper. However, to use it with Instapaper you must have a $1/month subscriber account. I am not interested in paying a recurring fee so I can have a much-needed feature like a desktop client when the same feature is completely free to use with Pocket (note: you must treat Pocket as Read It Later in the client). There are other options and Windows/Linux clients as well.
Searching is Awesome
In addition to tagging, Pocket allows you to sift through your reading list with a nifty search function. Searching makes life easier if you have a larger reading list. Instapaper does have a search feature, but you can only enable it if you pay for a subscriber account.
Pocket is a very beautifully designed app with an intuitive UI. All of the web app’s functionality is also easy to use in the mobile app. I am not usually one to care as much about aesthetics when functionality is good, but for apps touting a good reading experience I find it more important. The reading experience and general functionality of the app are both phenomenal and the user experience is all wrapped up in a pleasant graphical interface.
The Instapaper iOS app is expensive at $5 and the Pocket app is free. There are good arguments that can be made about why someone would prefer Instapaper or Pocket over the other, but in the end I think they are relatively equal. I assume most people would rather use the free app in this case.
The Instapaper iPhone app is still better than Pocket in some ways, specifically with its social and advanced reading features. Although I don’t personally use the social features, many people love them. With the recent release of Instapaper 4.2 for iOS, Instapaper now handles pagination better, has added a sepia reading view, page turning animations, and gestures. These are all great additions which are lacking in Pocket. I also like how Instapaper now includes little dots to indicate how far along you are in your reading. The biggest feature which Pocket is lacking is the auto-scroll feature that the Instapaper app includes. I will probably miss that the most.
Despite these little features I will miss with the Instapaper app, the basic functionality of the Pocket app is just better. When it comes down to it, essential things like multimedia handling, tagging, and a free app make it my new service of choice.
Pocket has updated to version 4.1 and has added an improved dark theme, a sepia theme, and a page turning animation with gestures like the Instapaper app. Go Pocket!
As of September 18th, 2012 the Android version of Pocket (v4.2) now has the ability to read saved articles aloud to users. That is an amazing feature that I await for iOS.
Pocket continues to be an innovator in its space. As of October 25th, 2012, Pocket has announced the release of an official desktop app for Macs. It is available for download in the Mac App Store.