As good as they are at loading web pages quickly and precisely on smaller screens, both Safari for iOS and Chrome for Android are terrible when it comes to loading a massive page-turner of an article—you know, that one you want to curl up with on a lazy Sunday.
For starters, not all web articles are formatted for mobile reading, meaning you’ll have to wade your way through tiny text and massive ads—and even with Safari’s “reader” mode, you’ll still have to settle for the uninspiring font Apple picked for you.
And if you can’t finish that monster of an article in one sitting, neither Chrome nor Safari will be much help when it comes to saving your place. More likely than not, both browsers will simply reload the page when you get back to it, plopping you right back to the top of the story.
Or what if there’s no Internet connection? At least Safari has its “reading list” feature, which saves web pages for offline reading, but Chrome users are out of luck.
The solution: a dedicated reader app, and here’s five reasons why iPhone- and Android-toting bookworms shouldn’t be without one.
1. They’ll reformat articles to be easier on the eyes
You know how good the pages look in apps like Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iBooks, and Google’s Play Books? The best dedicated reader apps—such as Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability—can do pretty much the same thing for almost any article on the web.
Each of those three apps (and if you look, you’ll find others on the App Store and Play stores, too) will let you change fonts and font sizes, as well as pick your own background color for the screen. If you’re an Instapaper user, you can adjust line spacing and margins, too, meaning you can tweak the text until you get it just right.
Of course, Safari for iOS has its “reader” mode (tap the three-line button on the left side of the address bar), and it works in a pinch; that said, you’re stuck with a sans-serif font on a white background, with font size being the only customizable setting.
2. You can flip pages through your articles
Given that the 30,000-word stories you’ll find in the New Yorker are essentially novellas, the option to turn pages rather than just scroll is a welcome one.
Both Pocket and Instapaper boast such “pagination” features, and Instapaper adds the snazzy option (on its iOS app, anyway) of animated curly pages, just like in iBooks and Google Play Books.
If you’re a fan of scrolling, you can even set Instapaper to scroll up or down whenever you tilt your phone one way or the other, perfect for straphangers who only have one hand free.
3. They save your articles for “offline” reading
Whether you’re spending a week on a tropical island or lazing about in a remote ski lodge, there’s nothing more enticing (for me, anyway) than teeing up a lengthy feature article on your phone—assuming you’ve got an Internet connection, that is.
The best dedicated reader apps will save your bookmarked articles for offline reading, meaning you’ll have something to read even if you’re miles away from the nearest Wi-Fi or cellular network.
4. They’ll save your place
if you were just about to protest that Safari for iOS can, in fact, save web pages for offline reading thanks to its “Reading List” feature, well, that’s true. But there’s a catch.
See, Reading List has a serious drawback when it comes to longer web articles: if you leave the story and come back later, Safari will typically reload the entire page, losing your place in the process—pretty annoying if you’re 10,000 words into a 30,000-word article.
One of my favorite features of reader apps like Instapaper, Pocket and Readability is that they’ll always remember to save your place, even across devices and no matter how long you’ve waited to come back to a particular story.
5. You can bookmark articles on your phone, tablet or desktop browser
Once you’ve installed a reading app, it’s time to start bookmarking articles to save. The easiest way to do so is directly from Safari in iOS or Android’s Chrome browser.
To save an article you’re viewing in Safari, tap the Action button—the square one with the upward arrow—and find the specific Action button for your reader app of choice. Don’t see it? Tap the three-dot “More” button to find and enable the right button.
For the Chrome browser on Android, tap the three-dot menu button in the corner of the screen, tap “Share,” then find the “Add to” button for your particular reading app.
What if you find a story on your desktop browser that you want to read later? All you need is a browser “bookmarklet” for your favorite reader app. Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability all have them, and they generally support popular browsers like Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Just drag the right bookmarklet into your browser’s toolbar, and you should be all set.
Bonus tip: If you’re looking for articles to add to Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, or another reader app, check out Longreads, a curated list of gotta-read long-form web articles on a wide variety of topics. The Longreads website boasts “Read Later” buttons that’ll automatically add stories to Instapaper and Pocket, and there’s a Longreads iOS app, too. As an alternative, visit the Readability site for a list of recommended articles, or follow other Readability users for their top picks.