Pocket, which lets you save articles and videos to your devices to view later, is rolling out a redesign today with a new emphasis on listening to the items you save. The listen feature, which is powered by a new integration with Amazon’s Polly text-to-speech service, is intended to turn your article queue into “a personal podcast that you curate on your own,” CEO Nate Weiner says. It’s out today on iOS and Android.
The company, which is owned by Mozilla, is also announcing its first Alexa skill. Add it to your Alexa-enabled device, and you’ll be able to access your Pocket articles wherever you have a smart speaker.
The redesign represents the first major visual change to Pocket since 2012 when the company first rebranded from its original name Read It Later. It lowers the information density of the app in favor of more white space and slightly larger labels. I personally liked the denser version of Pocket, but the new look is likely to strike many users as a more relaxing place to read and watch.
“It’s a dedicated, quiet place to read, reflect, and learn new things,” Weiner says. “That’s what people use it for. They save things they’re fascinated by, and to become better people. We take that responsibility really seriously to complete that loop,”
Pocket users can be voracious readers, and they often save far more articles to the app than they will ever wind up reading. That prompted the company to take another look at its text-to-speech feature, which was first introduced in 2012. While the feature had its fans, the robotic voice was straight out of Radiohead’s OK Computer.
With the redesign, the listening feature now resembles a modern podcast app, complete with buttons for skipping ahead and controls for adjusting the speed of the recording. As soon as one article finishes, the next one will start playing. It doesn’t yet support offline listening, but that’s coming soon, Weiner says. In the meantime, if you start listening to an article before your subway train goes underground or you otherwise lose connectivity for a short period of time, the article you’re listening to should still play to the end, he says.
The new listening feature, which includes both male and female voices, makes the narration sound much more natural. In the future, Pocket might experiment with using human voices to record featured articles, Weiner says.
With Pocket’s new Alexa skill, that listening can now extend into the home. Say “Tell Pocket to get my articles,” and your Alexa device can read anything you’ve saved on your phone or tablet.
“Text reading is not going away,” Weiner says. “But as we get busier and busier, and there’s more and more content, one of the biggest things you hear is, ‘I saved too much for Pocket.’ We’re hoping to open up and free that content so you can consume — it in ways you haven’t been able to before.”