Substack just launched a standalone app for iPhone and iPad, a reading tool the newsletter platform touted as “like your email inbox, but better.” We’ll leave the accuracy of that statement for you to decide—we’re just here to show you around.
You’ll notice we didn’t say Android—there’s not yet a Substack Reader app for Google’s operating system. You can, however, sign up on the platform’s official waiting list to be notified when it hits Google Play. It’s unclear when that’ll happen, but Substack’s community managers said in the comment section under the March 9 announcement that it would drop “as soon as possible.”
How to use the Substack app’s inbox
There are four main tabs within the app, accessible from the bottom bar: your inbox, the Discover tab, your library, and your profile. The inbox is all the way to the left, and it’ll show all new posts from the writers you subscribe to.
Tap any of these posts to read them, and a new bottom bar will appear. From there, you can tap the heart icon to like a post, the speech bubble to comment, the share icon to, well, share, and the archive icon (a box with a lid), to stash the post in your archive. The bell icon in the top right corner will notify you of any interactions with your comments or other Substack activity, and it’s on every screen inside the app. When you’re done reading, hit the back arrow in the top left, or swipe right to return to your inbox.
You can also long-press on any entry, which will open up options to View on Web (this will open the post in your mobile browser of choice), see the publication’s main page (View Publication), and Archive the post. Speaking of archiving, you can swipe left on any post in your inbox to archive it, or tap the archive icon in the top right to store everything in your inbox at once.
If you view the publication, you can tap the three dots in the top right to share it, browse the whole thing on the web, unsubscribe, and manage your subscription. Tap that last option and you’ll be able to change your name, email address, subscription status, and how that publication can notify you. You can’t tell different newsletters to go to different emails—you have to use one email for all your subscriptions—and turning off all notifications for a publication will unsubscribe you.
Substack app settings you should know
Tap your profile icon (it looks like a person), and you’ll be able to edit your profile. You’ll also be able to see your subscriptions and any posts you’ve written. Find the cog icon in the top right corner to access more settings.
Here you can enable push notifications, and if you want to disable them at any point, you’ll need to open the iOS Settings app, find Substack, tap Notifications, and choose your preferences.
You can also pause email notifications here so you don’t get double-notified of new posts in the app and your inbox. This setting is actually off by default, so you’ll want to turn it on to keep your alerts to a minimum.
Using the Substack app library
We’ve mentioned “archive” five times already, and you’ll find it here, behind the library icon, which looks like an open book. This tab will also show your podcasts and subscriptions, and there’s not much more you need to know about it. If for any reason you want to unarchive a post, though, you can’t.
How to find more newsletters in the Substack app
The magnifying glass icon on the bottom bar leads to the Discover tab. You can type anything in this tab’s search bar to find more newsletters, or scroll down to look at what Substack has decided to feature that week. The app also lists topic categories that you can peruse.
Tap on any publication to see more information about it on its profile page, including its latest posts and the people involved. If you like it, hit Subscribe, and you’ll join as a free subscriber. You’ll also get a confirmation email that includes additional subscription options, such as paying to access the full suite of posts.
A final option is Discover via Twitter, which involves linking your Twitter account to see what people in your network are reading and writing. To do so, you’ll have to provide your Twitter username or email, as well as your Twitter password. This will give Substack Reader the ability to see tweets on your timeline (including protected ones); your lists and collections; your profile information and account settings; your email address; and the accounts you follow, mute, and block.
If you ever want to turn off Substack’s access to your tweets, open Twitter, tap your profile picture (on mobile) or More (on the web), then go to Settings and privacy, Security and account access, Apps and sessions, Connected apps, select Substack, and choose Revoke app permissions.
Now go stack those subs. We’ll see ourselves out.