I dropped Safari Reading List and moved back to InstapaperTuesday, July 3, 2012
If you’ve ever looked at Safari’s new “Reading List” feature and wondered “is it good enough to replace Instapaper?” or a similar read-it-later service don’t worry, I’ve tested it out for you. Four months ago I moved all my articles into Safari (my primary web browser) and stopped using the Instapaper applications to read on my iPad and iPhone. Spoiler alert: I almost complete stopped saving articles to be read and I stopped reading saved articles.
Here are the big reasons I stopped using the Safari “Reading List”:
1. No home screen presence
Without a nagging reminder to keep reading when I pick up my phone during idle time, I default to spending my time in “less useful” ways such as checking Twitter, checking email, or playing a game. Without a dedicated application icon, for me it was hard to remember there is a list of good articles waiting for me buried in Safari (two or three taps away).
2. No API integration into apps (yet)
I find most of my long-form articles via Twitter and Reeder (RSS feeds). Both these applications have a dedicated button for sending a URL directly to Instapaper. There is no (currently) way to do this for the “Reading List” without taking two steps: open the link in Safari (which switches the currently open app) and then use the built-in Safari action to save to the Reading List (similar to ‘bookmarking’). This is slow and clumsy and led me to almost completely stop bookmarking articles to read later. Sometimes I would read it then and there just so I wouldn’t have to switch apps. Sometimes I would just skim the article and move on.
(I can only presume future iOS versions will make this a simple action available to iOS apps.)
3. No offline abilities
Instapaper does a great job turning an article into a simple, text-only version that will show up downloaded to my devices in the background. With Safari’s Reading List I need to be online to access the URL (tough luck if the URL goes offline temporarily or permanently) and then I need to use the ‘Reader’ tab to see the text-only version. Again, this seems like extra steps and clumsy. It’s close, though.
(I am aware that iOS 6 will add “Offline Reading” support, that’s why this is number three.)
Reading List has near parity to other read-it-later providers like Instapaper but it’s still a bit too fiddly to be useful. My guess is offline support will be good and a dedicated iOS “Save to Reading List” action is around the corner. I’ll try things out again and see if Instapaper drops off my home screen then. But, the point remains: without the nagging application on my home screen: I forget to read what I told myself I should.