“Read Later – ?4”. I live my life by it. I find an interesting article but have no time to read it – ?4. A crazy-long message in Gmail that’s just perfect for, um, ‘bathroom reading’ – ?4. Pretty much anything that demands attention but can wait until I’m curled up in bed at the end of the day? ?4.
What’s all this ?4 stuff about? Why, that’s my browser shortcut to Instapaper by Marco Arment. Instapaper strips the text out of almost any browser page and stores it for later reading; for me, that’s usually via the Instapaper Pro app on my iPhone.
And now Arment brings us Instapaper for the iPad. I’ve never been more excited! On the Instapaper blog yesterday, Arment wrote;
I’m probably supposed to keep this secret and build everyone’s anticipation to hype this up. Oh well. Maybe I’ll do that for the Instapaper edition for Apple’s next revolutionary computing platform.
First: Instapaper is definitely coming to iPad.
Second: Instapaper is coming to iPad very soon. Possibly even on day one — yes, I’m going for it — but that’s optimistic.
Third: Instapaper Pro will be a universal iPhone/iPad application. That means that you only have to buy Instapaper Pro once to have it on both devices, and the iPad edition will be available to all Pro purchasers at no additional charge when it’s released.
You know that joy we all felt when Apple announced Snow Leopard would be super-duper-cheap? Remember the way you smiled when you heard the news, and felt a warm glow inside? That’s how I feel about Instapaper Pro on the iPad. I think I even went “Squee!” when I read Arment’s post. (I was alone, so no one knows I made a fool of myself. Oh, wait…)
It looks like Instapaper Pro, but bigger, and with slight interface tweaks and redesigns where appropriate.
When everyone else was stalling their iPhone development for months in order to redesign entire applications for the iPad, I made the obligatory cardboard prototype and mocked up a bunch of radical interface departures.
Ultimately, none of them were very practical. Some worked well, but only with ideal content (which, in practice, is rarely the case except in the Editor’s Picks folder). And I didn’t want to commit to any huge risks because I don’t have an iPad to test them on.
And that’s the hurdle many iPad developers currently face. Any developer will agree it’s important to be in the iPad app store as close to Day One as possible, but all app development and testing is horribly crippled by the ‘little’ fact that no one has an iPad yet. Emulators and simulations are all very well and good, but nothing beats having the real thing to hold in one’s hands.
What might seem like a great design decision or function implementation in a simulator may not work in ‘real’ life, on an actual hold-it-in-your-hands-and-swipe-with-your-fingers iPad. There’s a big difference between how we interact with a computer monitor, and how we interact with a magazine – and the iPad is the mongrel offspring lovechild of the two. (You know what I mean.) Truth is, no amount of cardboard dummy iPads and on-screen simulations will provide the same tactile feedback and degree of first-hand quality control offered by an actual iPad.
Some developers are no doubt hoping that the iPad’s super-size function (by which apps designed for the iPhone are displayed at more than double their original size on the iPad) will keep customers happy until they can get a real iPad and spend time properly (re)developing their apps for it.
So why didn’t Arment just let Instapaper Pro run in that supersize, double-pixel mode? After all, content in Instapaper is mostly text. No worries about pixelated graphics there, right?
Wrong. Arment fired up Instapaper in his iPad simulator. The result?
It sucked, and it was completely unusable by my standards…
While I could have taken the conservative option and waited until a month or two after the iPad’s release before launching Instapaper for it, an iPad without native Instapaper Pro is not a device I want to own.
Me neither. And, if early reports are accurate, neither will a lot of other people for whom the iPad is, for the most part, a reading device. According to a report today on TUAW, a comScore poll of prospective iPad customers revealed that 37 percent said it’s likely they’ll read books on the device; 34 percent were more certain, saying that they would use the iPad for reading magazines and newspapers.
For those of you, like me, who are using Instapaper heavily every day, the iPad is like a dream come true and I can say with certainty that catching up on all those ?4’d articles and web pages will be what my iPad is used for most often. And for the 34 percent of iPad customers-in-waiting, Instapaper (and the inevitable copycat apps that follow) will make the iPad just about the only screen from which we’ll want to do any reading, ever again.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Evolution of the e-Book Market