Pocket – Read-Later Aggregator for iOS, Android and Kindle
Aggregated news readers have become a sizeable niche market on pretty much all mobile computing platforms. There are two main varieties of these readers – the user-curated ones and the producer-curated ones. Flipboard, Zite and Longread are all producer curated news readers, while Instapaper, Readability and Pocket are user-curated.
Pocket used to go by the name of Read It Later and it was the best of the read-later news apps available for smartphones and tablets. It has now been redesigned, rebranded and relaunched and, more importantly, is now free (it used to cost $3). We’re taking a look at the iPad version of the app, although it is also available on iPhone, Android (phone and tablet), Kindle Fire and in your browser.
So for Pocket to be useful to you, you need to get into the habit of forwarding on interesting articles to it. The idea is that when you encounter some interesting online story or feature, but you don’t have the time there and then to read it, you send it to Pocket and later on, when you do have time, you read it. If you’re not the sort of person who can get into the habit of sending on those links then your Pocket library is going to look somewhat bare.
When you start the app, your articles are presented in a cool Pinterest style block array with headline and image or headline and text depending on the story – you an also switch to a simple list based layout. You can further refine your list of articles by viewing just articles, just videos or just images. I must admit that using an app like this to store interesting images never occurred to me – I’ve always used it purely for long text based articles.
When you view an article you can view it in a reduced text format, or simply the original article on an embedded web page. None of these aggregating apps are very good at extracting just the text from articles and about 50% of the time you’ll have to view in original article mode if you want to read it at all. Pocket’s no different in this regard.
When viewing in article mode you can ramp the point size of the text up, switch between a serif and a sans-serif font and boost the leading to make the on-screen text more legible. There’s also a night mode that inverts the display and a brightness setting so you can dial down the screens’ intensity for less over-powering light when reading in bed at night.
Should you decide the article is worthy of onward sharing then there’s also a long list of apps and services you can send to, including bookmarking services like Pinboard and Delicious, link sites like Reddit and LinkedIn and a long list of Twitter apps. You can also copy it, email it or open the article in Safari. Once you’re done with an article, you can mark it read (with the tick button) and it’ll get moved to your archives. There’s also a bulk archiving tool on the main screen of the app.
Pocket’s a great read-later app, but it’s not one that will prove useful to all people. If you prefer to have your news served up for you in a channel based format then Flipboard or Zite are a better option. But if you’re the sort of person that likes collecting interesting articles and prefer to give them the attention they require at a later date when you can fully absorb the details, then Pocket’s fine. I wouldn’t say it was any better than Read It Later and I definitely feel the cool black and tan colour scheme of the old app was much better than the trendy rainbow colours of the new one.