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The Web is full of cats. Seriously, they’re everywhere. So are other silly memes, and banner ads, and a myriad other things conspiring to steal your attention and chop it up into bits. But there’s also lots of great stuff to read online – insightful opinion pieces, in-depth exposés, or just articles that will make you look at the world in new ways. If you care about your information diet, you’re going to want to make time to read them in a distraction-free way. Pocket for Android is one excellent way to do this, especially given the recent release of version 5 with its new Highlights feature.
I first covered Pocked for Android back when it was called Read It Later, and it’s interesting to flick through those screenshots from 2011 and compare them with what you’ll see below. You may be surprised to see just what a stark difference two years made in Android interface design and polish. Of course, Pocket is also available for the Web, and it too got a recent redesign making it more enjoyable to use. If you’re not currently using Pocket, that article is actually a good starting point: To benefit from the Android app, you should probably have a few articles saved up in your Pocket to read later.
Finding Something to Read: Rummaging Through Your Collection
My own Pocket workflow is simple: I see interesting stuff during the day which I know I don’t have time to read now (usually in-depth articles). I then use the Pocket bookmarklet to save it to my Pocket (I’ve explained why I think bookmarklets are superior to add-ons before). Come Saturday morning, or some other time I want to curl up and read something interesting, I grab my phone and launch Pocket. This is what I see:
To the left, you can see the default screen, highlighting content from my list of saved articles. Note the Trending and Long Reads labels: These are recent additions to the app, and they can help you figure out what to read next. One constant issue, at least for me, is that I tend to save far more things than I have time to read, so there’s always a bunch of unread articles. Labeling pieces like this helps, but one other feature that could help is a reading time estimation. That’s something you can find on the Medium blogging platform which recently opened to all: You can see at a glance how long an article is going to take you to read. We can hope to see that feature make it to a future Pocket version.
To the right above you can see various other ways you can navigate your collection: Pocket also lets you save videos, and there’s a special spot for content friends shared with you.
The Highlights section is new to version 5:
For one thing, it’s just beautiful. It breaks down the best of your collection into various categories (yes, I’m sort of addicted to The Verge), which you can then drill into. To the right you can see what my Long Reads category looks like. Not all articles have a featured image, so some just get a colored rectangle which doesn’t look as good.
The Reading Experience
Now that you’ve found something to read, let’s talk about what reading is like:
As you can see, there are many ways to tweak the reading experience to your liking. You can change the typeface used, its size, the paragraph justification, the color scheme, and the brightness. In other words, just about anything you would expect. You can also use your device’s volume buttons to scroll, a feature I personally love. Starring the article (in the top toolbar) is a way to mark it as a favorite for yourself, though even if you don’t do that, you will still be able to track it down in the future because everything you read is saved into an archive.
After Reading: Sharing Articles
Sharing is a natural conclusion to reading (though, let’s face it, many of us share before we even finish the piece). Pocket makes this easy, whether your friends already use the service or not:
The Send To Friend feature lets you share content either over email, or with someone who’s already using Pocket – something you can see on the right. This is the use case I’d suggest for the feature: Share articles with people who already use Pocket.
Settings and Tweaks
Being a mature app, Pocket offers numerous little tweaks, completely aside from the reading format options we’ve looked at above:
You can control anything from keeping the screen from rotating (great for reading in bed) to whether or not Pocket should sync in the background (I don’t like having apps run in the background, which is why this feature is disabled on my device), to the aforementioned volume rocker scrolling. Basically, if there’s anything you’d like to change, chances are you can.
An Effortless Reading System
Saving to Pocket from the browser and reading the content on the phone (or a tablet) works well in practice. It’s a form of having your cake and eating it, too – you get to stay productive during the day, without missing out on all of those great articles you come across. It also makes going through your Twitter timeline faster, because you can just save links to read later and focus on quick tweets. If you’re not using Pocket yet, give it a try today, and share your thoughts in the comments.