Pocket’s sort by time to read feature seems designed for the return of commutes

Pocket, an app for saving articles to read later, is rolling out a sorting option to Android users over the next few weeks that could solve my paralysis when choosing something to read. The new sort by time-to-read feature, spotted by The Verge’s Dan Seifert, means articles can be organized where they fit best, whether it’s the five minutes it takes to microwave lunch, or a 20-minute wait for the late bus.

The feature appears in both the search section of the app, and as a sorting feature in your main list. A reader can sort their saved article search by length, choosing from Quick (less than five minutes), Medium (six to ten minutes), Long (eleven to twelve minutes), and Very Long (over twenty-one minutes). Your list of saved articles can also be organized by newest saved, oldest saved, longest to read, and shortest read, according to Pocket’s VP and General Manager Matt Koidin. If the feature proves popular, after Pocket “modernizes its iOS codebase,” Koidin says the company will bring these sorting options to iOS and the web as well.

In my pre-pandemic life, when I used to ride the bus to work almost every day, I’d constantly misjudge what I was getting myself into when deciding what to read. Pocket’s pre-existing time-to-read stamps for articles help, but when you have a dragon’s hoard of writing you wanted to read at some point, things get complicated. Finding an article that can fit into a typical commute time might help people actually finish reading what they care about.

I assumed reading time was personalized, but Koidin says that Pocket actually bases its estimates on an average 220 words-per-minute reading speed. Now the hair on the back of my neck goes up when I think about great writing as a reading length first, rather than a holistic work of creative effort, but I think it’s easy to see how useful this could be (if I wasn’t shackled to an iPhone currently).

Commutes might not be in the equation for everyone just yet, but for those who still travel to work regularly, the feature might help. It at least has me missing my reading time on the bus.

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