Content consumption. We all take part in for probably the better part of most days. Whether or not it’s a good thing, we’re all guilty of having our eyes glued to our glowing sub-10-inch screens countless times throughout the day. Whether you’re stuck line at the bank, or just trying to kill time at work, we’re always grabbing our phone or tablets to get the latest scoop on what friends are doing, the latest current events, or to respond to a text message. My three most used apps are certainly Facebook, Instagram and Flipboard — my data usage per app will also adequately reflect that sentiment.
Flipboard began gaining popularity in 2012 when it took off on iPad and was finally released on iPhone and Android. Originally developed for the iPad and released in 2010, it quickly reached the top of the App Store charts and received the iPad App of the Year award from Apple in 2010. My first encounter with Flipboard was on my iPhone 5. I’m a tech news junkie, and I’ve always needed a centralized source to get the latest posts from blogs around the net. The Verge (used to be Engadget), MacRumors, Mashable… the list goes on. I’ve done the tedious RSS thing, I’ve used Google Reader, and I’ve gone through news aggregators such as Pulse. But Flipboard has been the only one to stick.
The concept is simple, it’s a news aggregator. But also uses a an elementary flipping animation to culminate that digital newspaper slash magazine theme that the developers were going for. The styling is great, ads are kept to a minimum, and the app’s environment is ideal for reading — even on a phone. Recently I came across a newly redesigned app, Pocket. Ever since downloading it last week, I think it’s safe to see it’s officially a part of my content consumption arsenal.
I’d heard of Read It Later before, but never took the time to understand what apps like this were all about. Back in 2012, Read It Later was refashioned as Pocket, and took on an entirely new interface. Instapaper and Readability are both competing products, but it seems like Pocket takes the cake in overall compatibility (works on Android and iOS), function, and user interface. There are even extensions for Chrome, Safari and Firefox for when you’re not on a mobile device. These ‘read later’-based apps allow you to handpick items like blog posts and articles from the web and save them for reading later. Initially I thought, how would an app like Pocket be able to coincide with another consumption-based app like Flipboard? Why would I want to save stuff to read later, when I could read it in whatever app I found it? The answer: It’s personal. Pocket, for those who love browsing various sources to grab good reads everyday would probably find Pocket to be very useful. To give a more tangible, real-life example of what’s actually going on when you use Pocket, let’s say Flipboard is the newspaper or magazine you like reading, Pocket is like the digital folder, or “pocket”, that you stuff full of clipped articles that you want to save for later.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with apps like Flipboard. I personally use Flipboard everyday. Another news aggregator I’m a fan of, and that I frequently use on iOS is Zite. Throughout my day, I’ve got plenty of those sub-five minute breaks in action in a normal day at work or school. That’s a perfect amount of time to skim Flipboard or another news app for interesting articles that I’d like to read, but not nearly enough time to actually relax and digest an entire piece of writing. Here’s wear Pocket comes in. Those five minute breaks are where I’ll flip through a news aggregator like Flipboard or Zite, and quickly save a few posts to my Pocket account. Then, in the cloud, Pocket knows to grab those articles, and then send an optimized version to all my devices that have the Pocket app on them.
Once I’ve grabbed a bunch of news articles or blog posts from whichever source I’ve chosen them, it’s time to head to Pocket. This is usually when I get off work, or before I’ll pack it in and go to sleep. If I haven’t been in the app recently, upon opening the app it’ll quickly download what it needs to from the links that I’ve saved to Pocket in other apps. Usually — if it hasn’t already done this in the background — it takes less than a few seconds for everything to be ready. Once my Pocket feed is available, I’m given a nice layout of all of the stories I’ve saved. Much like Flipboard, the app will provide a nice big cover image for each post or article, and a brief paragraph or so worth of text lifted directly from the writing. You can choose to have your stuff show up in a classic list style, but my preference is this tiled structure. It’s very modern — much like how Flipboard displays articles — and is very similar to what a physical magazine’s contents page might be organized. If you’re a bit tap-happy with what you’re saving to Pocket and have accumulated a couple dozen or more items, the list view may be a better way in which to navigate through the content.
Visually the Pocket app is particularly refined. You can tell that this app was bred on iOS. In my opinion, apps like Evernote, Wunderlist and Flipboard — which have been cultivated on the iOS platform before migrating to Android and elsewhere — just look and feel nicer. Taking fundamental style cues from Apple’s infamous iBooks, Pocket equips users with quick toggles to switch the background colors, texts size and font, etc. There’s the usual generic serif and sans-serif font to flip back and forth between. And just like iBooks, you can also choose between a white, sepia or dark background for easier reading. While many Android apps in 2013 look great and can rival app design on iOS, there are plenty that don’t. Pocket started on iOS, and you can definitely feel those roots. But here’s the real beauty of this app. After a day’s worth of finding posts to send to my Pocket, I’m left with a personalized stream of handpicked articles that I actually want to read.
When I open most news or aggregator apps, it’s like walking through a shopping mall. Chances are I’ll walk past plenty of stores, but only go in and shop a few of them. The same can be said about apps like Flipboard. I’ll thumb through plenty of articles that don’t seem interesting, but a few will trigger my liking. That’s why Pocket is not only the perfect compliment to news aggregators like Flipboard, but it completely enhances that content consumption experience on my iPad or my phone — whatever device in using. It’s as simple as holding down on an article before even opening it in Flipboard, and choosing to save it to my Pocket account.
I can honestly say that I was a latecomer to the Flipboard ecosystem, but now I’m an avid user. I’m also not a big reader, but apps like Flipboard have opened me up embracing reading as a hobby. Pocket helps me even more with that. After a week or so of using this app, I don’t think I could live without it. It’s nearly the perfect news aggregator for smartphones, and it’s an even better experience on iPad. Coming from someone who wouldn’t give Read It Later the time of day a year ago, Pocket is the newest app I’ve become addicted to. Granted I may be a bit excited about finding a new app that’s been under my nose for years — that may eventually wear off. But if you’re into apps like Flipboard or Zite, and you want to seamlessly create a custom-tailored feed of stuff you’ve handpicked, Pocket will immensely enhance your experience day to day. It’s definitely worth try, plus it’s free with no ads in tow. Pocket’s currently available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Amazon’s Kindle, and as an extension for browsers on the desktop. Pocket has a web interface that mimics what you’ll get on a mobile device, but optimized for your desktop or laptop. There’s also a version for Mac available in the App Store.