Resolved to catch up on reading? This new app will help

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Summary

Matter improves vastly on earlier read-later apps like Pocket and Instapaper, letting you easily access news and other stories whenever you get the time

I DO NOT need help adding to my to-do list. My addled brain is a whiz at gathering new recipes to try and instruments to learn. I’m best, though, at collecting links. For almost a decade, anytime I’ve come across an article or blog post that looks interesting, I tap a small button on my browser that sends it to Pocket, an app which stores these stories in a list that I can theoretically get to when I’m not supposed to be answering my boss’s emails.

If you obsess as much as I do about using your time better, you may well be familiar with “read-later apps" such as Pocket and Instapaper, both of which launched in the late aughts. They offer their main features for free and let you pay for premium tiers that unlock additional aesthetic and search capabilities. In 2015, digital tech magazine The Verge reported that Pocket had been downloaded 17 million times. (Representatives from both Pocket and Instapaper declined to provide specific information about the current size of their user bases.)

At first, the ability to stash stories away via such a purposeful app—rather than letting them waste away in my browser’s 34th tab—motivated me enough to ensure I eventually read them. But soon, the list became an unbearable behemoth of literally thousands of unread articles. Every time I open Pocket these days, I almost immediately close it. After all, “Candy Crush Saga" is right there.

Last year, I heard rumblings about a new read-it-later app that promised a better way. On the surface, Matter, released in October 2021, looked a lot like its predecessors. When you open the app, you land first on a standard queue of every article you’ve saved. After using Matter for a few weeks, I felt the déjà vu of disappointment.

I later discovered Matter has a few extra tricks, most significantly its sorting options. While Matter, Pocket and Instapaper all automatically list your stories by the date you saved them, Matter makes it easy to move things around. You can rearrange stories manually like a playlist, or use filters to bring up a list of stories you’ve already started (“In Progress") or bite-sized pieces you can digest quickly (“Short"). Your queue functions more like an approachable digital to-do list and less like a towering stack of the New Yorker magazines—who knows where that piece on whales is hiding?

This ability to quickly customize your queue, right from the main tab, made Matter feel like a big step up from its predecessors. I later learned that you can reorder stories in your Pocket list, but it requires diving into the app’s settings. And even then, for the moment, the functionality is too clunky to use regularly. Perhaps the makers of Pocket will improve this feature, but Matter’s thoughtful design has made me a convert. (Note: If you have a Pocket or Instapaper queue you’ve been building, you can import it into Matter.)

Matter can’t let you magically ingest the heap of articles you’ve put a pin in over the years. But since downloading it, I’ve spent less time aimlessly scrolling in hope of finding something interesting and more time actually digging into my archive. The residents of Candy Kingdom will have to find a new savior.

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