Editors' note: This review was updated November 21, 2013, to cover features added in the latest version.
Formerly known as Read It Later, Pocket is a short-term bookmarking app that syncs across all of your devices. With it, you can put lengthy articles or videos away and queue them up for reading and watching later, no matter where you are. We tend to use it on our commutes, because you can access most of your saved items without an Internet connection. With Pocket, the transition between different devices is seamless, which is why it's one of our favorite productivity apps on the market.
Once you've signed up for a required Pocket account, saving items to your list is simple. Whether you're reading an article in a browser or watching a video in the YouTube app, just hit menu and use Android's share function to save the page to Pocket. Once items are saved, you can access them at any time from your Pocket list. They are even automatically cached for offline access (videos excluded). From the Settings menu, you can choose to cache either full Web pages or stripped-down versions, which show only words, images, captions, and video links from an article. We prefer letting Pocket choose which version to save, based on the type of content, since the app usually chooses the best view possible. It's these types of thoughtful options that make Pocket such an incredibly convenient app to have.
In the latest version of the app, released in November 2013, Pocket got a significant makeover. Before, everything you saved showed up as one big list in the app. Now, the app does it best to sort everything you saved into categories called Highlights, so it's easier to find something to read or watch. To get to your Highlights, swipe right in the app to open the menu bar.
There are a few default categories, including Long Reads and Quick Reads, which sort articles by length. That makes it really easy to find something to read based on how much time you have or what you're in the mood for. A short read might be just right for a quick break at work, while you save your long-form articles for Sunday mornings.
Next, Pocket looks at the topics of articles you save most often, and creates categories based off that information. For example, Sarah's account has a category for Apple, because she tends to save a lot of articles about Apple news and products. Likewise, if you save a lot of articles from a particular Web site or author, that might show up as a category as well.
Lastly, Pocket creates categories based on the tags you've used to organize your saved items. We were hoping that as soon as we saved an item and gave it a new tag, the app would instantly create a new category, but it doesn't. Pocket says that you need to save many items with the same tag to get it to create a new category, and even then, you'll only see the top articles with that tag in that particular category. That's disappointing, because we want to be able to save multiple articles with the same tag and have the app group all of them together.
When you first open the app, you'll see a carousel of top stories from each of your categories at the top, followed by your list of bookmarked items. You can sort your entire list by content type (text, video, or image) and edit items in bulk. Also, the search bar makes it easy to find items by tag, title, or even URL. So, even with hundreds of items saved to your Pocket, it's fairly easy to go back and find anything you're looking for.
After you finish viewing an item and check it off, it is automatically moved to an archive, where you can re-access it later. That removes it from your main list. One thing you can't do with Pocket, though, is reorder the items in your list. This isn't a huge deal since Highlights helps compartmentalize items for you and the search function works so well, but it would've been a nice function to have.
One of Pocket's most important capabilities is sharing. Much improved in recent versions, the app gives users the ability to email links to friends without having to leave the app. The Send to Friend feature lives in the Share menu, and it lets you include a comment along with your link. From an article, you can even highlight a specific passage and e-mail the quoted text along with your link. And when you share with existing Pocket users, they get notifications directly in their in-app Inbox.
Perhaps what we love most about Pocket is its open API, which has made it possible for a host of other mobile and desktop applications to integrate its services. This means you can save links to Pocket directly from your favorite Twitter client, YouTube, Yelp, Google Reader, and so on. And the list of partners is growing. You can also share any item from Pocket to your device's other applications just the same. This level of compatibility, along with the app's design and impressive features, make Pocket the clear choice over competitors, such as Instapaper. (Check out our post where we compare the two.)
Likewise, Pocket boasts support for a number of other services for your convenience. For instance, if you save a YouTube video to your list, you can watch it right within the Pocket app, thanks to the YouTube API. Also, if you save content directly from Twitter to your list, the Pocket app lets you see the original tweet from which it was saved. Even more, you can retweet, favorite, and reply without having to jump to your Twitter client.
Overall, we can't recommend Pocket highly enough. Because it's so convenient to pull up on any device and it seamlessly integrates with so many different applications, we find ourselves using it on a daily basis. Plus, its snazzy design and extra details like caching for offline access, saving to SD card, and TTS support make it a tough app to beat.