Instapaper: a potentially brilliant iPhone application

Of all the iPhone apps kicking around, the one I’m liking best is Instapaper. It’s a simple solution to a genuine problem I have: there are loads of things online I’d like to read, but when I come across them I just don’t have time to read them – so I bookmark them and immediately forget all about them. With Instapaper it’s just a matter of hitting the Read Later bookmarklet in your web browser, logging in on the iPhone and reading the articles when you’ve got time to do so. I particularly like the choice of Web View, which is the original page, or Text View, which gets rid of extraneous content.

I say it’s potentially brilliant, because while it’s a great wee app there are a few issues for me. Updating from my iPhone is desperately slow (although that may be my connnection); I can’t find a way to mark things as read to make them disappear; and with big articles you often need to locate the printer-friendly view (not Instapaper’s fault; it’s the fault of websites who’d rather split an article into seven hundred ad-stuffed pages). Oh, and it’d be nice to be able to control the style sheet for text view so I could specify my own fonts and sizes. The “mark as read” thing is apparently in version 1.01, but I don’t see it in the iTunes store yet; other features are promised for a future upgrade, possibly splitting the app into a free version and a paid-for premium edition.

The faults are minor, though, and it’s a brilliant wee application – and you don’t need to be an iPhone-toting hipster to use it, as Instapaper works perfectly well as a browser app too. However, I do think it makes most sense as a portable application, because it’s great for killing time on buses or when you’re generally hanging around waiting for something. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the habit of spotting interesting things online that you never quite get round to reading.