Best Reading List Apps for Android: Pocket vs. Readability vs. Papermill vs. Pulse

May 17, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka

Android App Reviews, Android Apps, Reviews


We live in a time-shifting world. DVR’s play TV shows whenever we want, music is streamed on-demand, and reading apps allow us to bookmark articles to peruse at our pace. But which is the best app? Which reading queue app reigns supreme when comparing Instapaper, Readability, Pocket (formerly Read It Later), and Pulse? Good question. has reviewed most of these apps previously, but all have been updated since then. Below is a look at the top apps that allow users to bookmark articles and have them formatted for easy reading on mobile devices. Compatibility and performance may vary across devices, but a comparison chart below compares major features. Disagree with the findings or think an app was left out? Let us know in the comments section below.

Papermill (Instapaper)

Instapaper ranks among one of the highest-rated reading queue apps, but its creator is shamelessly anti-Android and refuses to support the OS. Papermill steps in to support Instapaper with a great grey, blue, and white design. (Users can switch to a dark mode or adjust text size.) Papermill imports a user’s Instapaper list and can filter according to Likes and items that have been archived. Content is available offline, and an article can be opened in a browser. Users can set a download limit (10-100) and a time of day when to automatically sync with Instapaper.

The downside of Papermill is that it requires an Instapaper subscription. It’s tough to warrant the $3.99 purchase when one considers you’ll have to consider spending a $1 per month to continue using it. Sure, it’s only a buck, but it’s still a buck more than you’ll pay to the other apps. The only reason to buy Papermill is if you love Instapaper and need support on Android, because this is the best-looking Android Instapaper app around.

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Pulse is known more as a stylized reader for RSS feeds and pre-programmed channels built around interests or subjects. However, people often fail to realize that the app actually has a built-in component that can import a reading list saved from the desktop. Connecting the app to a account allows the user to click a bookmarklet in their browser and automatically add articles to a special section of the app that organizes a queue according to date. Interestingly enough, it even can import from Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, or Evernote. Users can mark items as favorites, share to other apps, and adjust the text size or look of the basic design.

The downside of Pulse is that it lacks the intricate filters and tags available in the other reading apps – it’s a last come, first displayed list. The reason to favor this option is that it’s an all-encompassing app. Pulse can display your saved feeds, popular trending articles, and your personalized queue. No, it’s not as customizable as the other apps, but it offers a centralized solution that the other apps mentioned here don’t have. If you want all your reading in one place, this is your app

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Pocket was Read It Later, a desktop and mobile app that specialized in earmarking articles to be read at a later time, formatting the articles to only have the important text and photos. The app has been rebranded to Pocket with a much better design that shows thumbnails and headlines as you browse. And unlike the other app, Pocket is prepared to import articles and photos or videos, as well as let users filter according to category. (You can also browse by tags or search to locate an article.) Pocket also does a great job of importing from other apps, so you can save pretty much anything.

The downside of Pocket is that the design, while absolutely beautiful on a phone, needs a little bit of touching up on large-screen tablets. Formatting in the navigation was a little off and images are downsized, but the app does an overall decent job and it’s still compatible with tablets. This is the app to use if you are as likely to bookmark a YouTube or Vimeo video as you are an article at your favorite news site.

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When it comes to customization and style, Readability earns high marks. The app has great light and dark themes, as well as a beautiful set of. Readability makes it easy to browse through a queue, favorites, and archives, and it has the best desktop adding mechanism of any app. Users can click a bookmarklet, browser icon, or use a keyboard shortcut to add a current page to the queue. It’s also great for switching between the stripped-down content view or going to the full web version. The “Read It Now” option especially comes in handy when looking to remove unnecessary content on a mobile device.

The downside is that Readability has experienced some stability and consistency issues on some device models. Crashes and sluggishness have been reported, and updates have yet to completely address these issues for everyone. The app has done well to limit the polling frequency for updating the reading list, but it needs more options to control how often it searches for new items.

Readability is best for users who love the desktop service and fall in love with the instant “Read Now” feature and desktop features. Try the app and if it works well on your device, this may be the best option.

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And the winner is….

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As always, we stress that what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. Try out all these options and see what works best for you. For my money, I’d have to say that the best is Pocket. I’m a sucker for a good design, and Pocket can compete with any app in that regard. Throw in better handling of multimedia, solid sharing and intents functions, and a free price tag, and Pocket stands out as the benchmark reading service for which all others should aspire to beat.