Another of the most popular iOS applications makes the move to Android as Instapaper is now available in Google Play. The useful software saves web pages for offline reading and re-formats them to remove all of the clutter often found around the content, providing a focused consumption experience. The Android version costs $2.99, which is interesting as Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, removed his free iOS version some time ago an opted for a paid model. Arment has noted that Android users prefer free software, so will they buy his app or opt for a free alternative?
The Verge has an exclusive, early look at Instapaper for Android, showing two minor differences between it and the iOS app: no true full-screen reading due to Android’s status bar and no pagination. All of the other features and customization options are there, save for a just-added background sync function added to iOS based on location; your saved stories can sync when get home or arrive at the office, for example. If you’re an Instapaper user already and have been waiting for an Android version, I don’t see any reason not to try the app, even at $2.99. There’s always the 15-minute return policy in Google Play if the Android version doesn’t meet your needs.
What I find interesting about the app is that it exists at all. Arment is a huge proponent of all things Apple and I don’t begrudge him that: He’s often right. But he also feels that Android users in general don’t pay for software, so why bother? In some sense, he really didn’t, as the development work was outsourced to the team that builds Tumblr’s mobile app. Arment didn’t code the Android version, so while he may have invested money in the development, he didn’t invest himself. In fact, as of the time of this writing, the Instapaper blog doesn’t even mention the new Android version.
I see this as more of an experiment for Arment and a way to get Android users asking “Where’s Instapaper for my phone?” to stop asking. They won’t ask any more, but will they pay? Big fans of Instapaper — there are plenty, and with good reason — are sure to buy, but I suspect most Android users won’t. Pocket, which until recently was called Read It Later, is not only free, but supported on far more platforms.
As much as I like Instapaper on my iOS devices, I’m not always using an iOS device and therefore I gravitated towards Pocket. Apple’s iOS devices are hot sellers and great, but I think we’re on the cusp of moving beyond single-platform apps towards software and services that work on whatever device we have in hand. Thoughts?