Catch up on all the day's stories without looking at your screen. Mozilla's save-it-for-later Pocket app is about to become much more useful for uninterrupted reading... including those times when you don't want to look at a screen. The company is launching a redesigned Pocket 7.0 for Android, iOS and web whose centerpiece is non-stop listening. You now have to tap a single "listen" button to tune into spoken versions of all your saved articles -- handy if you're commuting home and can't stare at your phone. Appropriately, the Pocket team has added a "more human sounding" voice so that the experience is more enjoyable. You'll have a better time when you do want to look. The redesign includes a less cluttered article view, night-friendly app themes (including dark and sepia) as well as new fonts and text layouts to promote extended reading sessions. This isn't just the reading mode you see in some browsers -- in some ways, it's closer to a dedicated e-book app than an article saver. Both mobile Pocket updates should be available now, while the web version is available as a beta test.
Last year, Mozilla made its first acquisition by snatching up Pocket, the Instapaper competitor that helps you save longer articles for later reading. Today, this popular reading app is getting a major update that gives its app a visual makeover, including a new dark mode, and most importantly, a better way to listen to the content youve saved. Pocket had added a text-to-speech feature several years ago, so you could listen to an audio version of your saved articles, instead of reading them. Instapaper today offers a similar option. But these text-to-speech engines often sound robotic and mangle words, leading to a poor listening experience. Theyll work in a pinch when you really need to catch up with some reading, and cant sit down to do it. But theyre definitely not ideal. Today, Pocket is addressing this problem with the launch of a new listening feature that will allow for a more human-sounding voice. On iOS and Android, the listen feature will be powered by Amazon Polly, Mozilla says. First introduced at Amazons re:Invent developer event in November 2016, Polly uses machine learning technologies to deliver more life-like speech. Polly also understands words in context. For example, it knows that the word live would be pronounced differently based on its usage. (E.g. I live in Seattle vs. Live from New York.) The technology has evolved since to support speech marks, a timbre effect, and dynamic range compression, among other things. To take advantage of the updated Listen feature, users just tap the new icon in the top-left corner of the Pocket mobile app to start playing their articles. Its like your own personalized podcast, Mozilla notes. In addition, the app has been given a redesign that gives it a clean, less cluttered look-and-feel, and introduces a new app-wide dark mode and sepia themes, for those who want a different sort of reading experience. The redesign includes updated typography and fonts, focused on making long reads more comfortable, as well. At Mozilla, we love the web. Sometimes we want to surf, and the Firefox team has been working on ways to surf like an absolute champ with features like Firefox Advance, said Mark Mayo, Chief Product Officer at Firefox, in a statement about the launch. Sometimes, though, we want to settle down and read or listen to a few great pages. Thats where Pocket shines, and the new Pocket makes it even easier to enjoy the best of the web when youre on the go in your own focused and uncluttered space, he said. The updated version of Pocket is live on the web, iOS and Android, as of today.