I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Instapaper for Android

It’s now available in all three major Android stores: Google Play, Amazon Appstore for Android, and Nook Apps.

I talked a lot about the rationale behind this on the podcast this week. Here’s the short version.

I always had three reasons not to develop Instapaper for Android myself:

  1. I didn’t think there was enough of a market for paid Android phone apps.
  2. Android tablets were selling very poorly, but more than half of Instapaper’s business comes from the iPad because of its reading nature, so it seemed like working on an app mostly for a phone platform might not be worthwhile.
  3. I didn’t have time to take any effort away from the iOS app to do it myself, and I hadn’t found anyone else (who I could afford) who I’d trust to do it well.

I don’t know whether the first is still true. Time will tell how well Android phone apps really sell.

But it’s less relevant, since the second is no longer true: the Nook Color, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire have sold well. These 7” tablets are sold primarily as reading devices, and their tightly integrated payment systems seem to have created a viable market for paid apps.

Instapaper has had a very popular feature for the e-ink Kindles that’s used by more than 75,000 people. That was definitely worth doing. I managed to develop it myself, but only because it was easy, it has very few features (limited by the device’s capabilities), and it doesn’t require much ongoing maintenance time.

But e-ink readers are being largely replaced by 7” tablets, especially the Nook Color, Nook Tablet, and Kindle Fire. Neither Barnes & Noble nor Amazon publish sales figures, but industry estimates suggest that these products, combined, have sold over 10 million units. Even though I like e-ink readers better than 7” tablets, the industry is clearly moving away from e-ink and toward tablets. E-ink isn’t going away, but it’s being marginalized.

Simply put, Instapaper needs to be on popular reading devices. That category now includes at least three 7” Android tablets, probably with more to come. I realized last winter that I needed to address this demand, but I couldn’t do it myself.

I asked my friends at Mobelux if they were interested in developing the official Instapaper Android app under a revenue-sharing agreement instead of a traditional hourly model, which I couldn’t afford for the quality and amount of work that this would require. We discussed the risks on both sides, and we both agreed that we were willing to accept them for the potential of what could become a great new business for both of us.

Now, six months later, 1.0 is done. Mobelux made a great app, and we hope it does well.

And I can highly recommend Mobelux for other developers’ needs: I’ve known them for much longer than this project, and their work is top-notch.