[Android App Review] Easily Distracted? Read it Later!


Some people have the ability to be concentrated. Studying isn't easy, as any of you can verify; I mean, who in their right mind really wants to spend hours of their own time staring mindlessly into some 1000-page bore lecturers/teachers like to call "insightful textbooks" ?You generally have the type of people who can knuckle down and blaze through 20 pages in no time, gobbling up information as if it were tasty ice cream. If you're that kind of a person, you'd probably use the app I'm about to review differently to how I'd be using it. You see, there's another kind of person among us students, the kind that aren't slackers, but just very easily distracted. You start off diligently, wading through mounds of work, until a soft ping makes you look up: your Android smartphone lying nearby, with the notification LED flashing enticingly.




Fast forward thirty minutes, and the truth becomes apparent: you've spent that time rifling guiltily through your WhatsApp, Facebook, and eventually onto the latest news, instead of studying. Problem is, because you're not meant to be on your phone while studying, you don't focus on the articles you're reading, that's just an injustice, is it not? Plus, if there's an article you like, most news apps are pretty notorious at burying it several pages away after just one sync and so if you want to look at it again later, you'll just get angry because it's gone missing. Let me toss some scenarios at you to help you understand why Pocket, formerly known to some of you as Read it Later, is one of the best apps on the Google Play Store to help the scatterbrains, distracted studiers, and hasty readers find their news stories from anywhere, and from any device, all in one place. Even better news is that this app was paid on the Apple Store and the Play Store, but the developers have now made the best decision they could have made by making it free.

"Save to Pocket." One heck of a useful button that is!
Pocket is a remarkably simple app and works on one premise: any news page from any news app, an interesting article from any browser, photos in an article on any device, can all be shared across platforms pretty much instantly. Here's an idea: you're at your browser, reading a pretty cool XDA-Portal article. Your alarm goes, crumbs, it's already lecture time! Rushing to grab all your stuff, you're about to close your browser, no wait--you want to read the article later, but bookmarking it....without a second thought you hit the "Send to Pocket" icon (Chrome/Firefox [sorry IE users!]) in your browser, grab your smartphone/tablet and head out. In your pocket (your actual one, I mean) your device will be downloading that article to the Pocket app (which you've already installed), for you to read later even if you're offline. Simple as that! Best thing is, it works the other way round too, and a quick visit to the Pocket Web UI  shows up all your saved sites and articles in a neat magazine view to check out.

Getting it all set up couldn't be easier. Either head to the Pocket site and create a Pocket account, or do it once you've grabbed the app from here on the Play Store. I'll weigh in on the experience from the Android app side. Once the app has been installed and you've signed into your account, you're ready to start, um, (pick)pocketing, articles and interesting sites.

The interface is simplistic, yet useful. Front and centre are all the articles you've Pocketed, and the top buttons let you sort content by category, although for a rushed person like me, I don't really bother with all that. Some nifty settings let you manage when and how fast Pocket reacts to downloading content, plus you can change the white or black look of the app, which is nice for owners of AMOLED display phones who like the black.

Once you're in the article view, the app cleverly squashes the text into the confines of your phone's screen so the only scrolling you'll do is up and down. If it messes up, it'll tell you it can't optimize the page and offers to load it normally. Nice. Sharing from Pocket to a million other social or mail destinations, typical Android, is also possible.

Pocketing an article from your Android browser is easy. Whip out the browser menu, and touch "share". Pocket is in the list, voilà, the page you were looking at gets saved into the Pocket app, and is now accessible from any device with the Pocket app, or a web browser on a PC of your choice!

Now the icing on this Pocketcake (I'll call that blogger's licence!) is the integration with your news apps. I use Flipboard (also free on the Play Store) to read my news and it offers excellent Pocket integration, although Pulse works great too. In the respective news app you're using, sign into your Pocket account and any news item, picture, video, whatever, can be saved by the menu--"Save to Pocket."

That's by no means the end of what Pocket can do, but I'll let you figure out all it's handy features instead of waffling on here for hours, a small hint, however, is that it's also able to read your articles to you...touché, Pocket!

Naturally no app is perfect, and there are some little niggles. The rotation lock which stops the phone display from turning if you're reading, can be a bit buggy, and the left-right swipe action in an article 'flips' pages even if you weren't really left-right swiping properly. Also I'm not sure in the logic that marking an article "read" makes it disappear only to be re-accessed from a sub menu. Maybe it's just me.

Well, I trust you've been enticed enough to give Pocket a spin from the Play Store here, try it out, and let us know!

This article by Matt de Neef first appeared on AndyStudentHandbook.blogspot.com in 2012.