March 24, 2010 Last Updated 2:30 pm

Instapaper spills the beans; shows off its iPad app early; bookmarking app already a popular iPhone download

It’s not April 3rd yet, but wise marketers are making sure that iPad buyers know about their offerings. One New York developer, Marco Arment, is showing off his iPad wares early.
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Arment is the developer behind the very popular Instapaper iPhone app. If you are not familiar with it and own an iPhone I suggest you fire up iTunes and download it immediately. Instapaper allows you to bookmark stories you find online for reading later (the bookmark added to your browser says “Read Later”, so I’ve heard people call the app by that name). Then, when you start the app all the stories are indexed for you to read in an easy text layout. The app also allows you to go to the original web version of the story if the article is graphics heavy and you feel you are missing too much.

Arment offers a free version as well as a Pro version for $4.99. The Pro version comes with folders, dictionary look-ups, tilt scrolling, a dark mode for night reading, and social network sharing tools.

Now Arment says he will be ready, possibly on Day One (April 3rd) to offer his iPad version. Pro users, who have already paid for the Pro version of the iPhone app will get the new iPad app for free, and presumably visa versa.
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As far as I know, Arment is the first developer to announce that his app would be free to previous buyers. This shows that Apple’s iTunes store will allow this type of transaction. (You can already download a previously purchased app for reinstallation, the system having a record of the previous purchase.)

What is fun about Arment’s blog post is hearing him walk through his design and submission decisions.

The vast majority of developers are currently developing their iPad apps a bit in the dark, forced to use a simulator to view and test their apps. Only the big boys, the Times, WSJ, MLB and a few others, have been given actual iPads to work on.

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.

So Arment began working on his first iPad app contemplating is two options: releasing an app on Day One that “might be buggy or non-ideal in a few areas” or wait, and let iPad buyers use his iPhone version which doubles the pixels in order to compensate for the larger iPad display.

“The second option seemed more sensible at first. That was my plan at the beginning. But then I saw the pixel-doubled version of my app in the simulator. It sucked, and it was completely unusable by my standards. I don’t think I’ll want to run any pixel-doubled apps on my iPad in practice.”

Thank you Arment! That is the first word heard by a developer concerning what the reader experience really will be like on the iPad. Are you listening third party publishing vendors? You better be working on a native iPad app if you don’t want to be hearing complaints from your newspaper and magazine clients.
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Arment concludes with a nice little sales pitch: “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.” The bolding is from the original, but I agree with the sentiment.

TechCrunch also has posted a story based on Arment’s blog post and concludes that Instapaper will “be one of the first real killer apps for the device.”

The Instapaper app is one of only two downloaded apps that have made it onto my iPhone’s home page (the other is the app, which is merely a substitute for the existing weather app). I would think Arment’s iPad app would be just as essential.

Since it is assumed that the iPad reading experience will be much more like a Kindle or Sony Reader because of the larger display size than the iPhone, using a native app will be all important. iPad buyers will have access to the Safari browser, of course, allowing them to view publisher’s web content. But the reason customers like Instapaper is that it better organizes reading material for those long flights, or lazy evenings of reading. The iPad, it is assumed, will be a leisure time reading device, and Instapaper’s app seems to be the perfect first download of new iPad buyers.

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