Readtime is an app designed to help readers get the most out of every minute of every day. The app plugs into caching services like Pocket and Readability to help users keep an eye on their spare time.
We’d all like to be more productive, and the internet has given us plenty of tools to do that. But unfortunately, it has also created many more distractions, and Cogent has taken a look at these obstacles and provided a solution with their new app, Readtime.
With its simple user interface, instead of sorting through what could be hundreds of articles on Pocket, Readtime only asks you to set how much time you have to spare—up to 30 minutes—and Readtime does the rest. Click the center node to start reading, and off you go. In the background, the app gauges the length of all of the articles you have stashed away and serves them to you depending on how much time you say you have. You can even have it to focus on the shorter articles in your backlog.
The article’s length is determined by word count, but there can be a few problems with that. Words from related links and tags are often counted in the calculation, which can throw off the count at times. This is a little frustrating since apps like Pocket and Readability already seem to know to cut those out. When you finish an article, you can archive it with a quick swipe to the left, and the next piece is seamlessly queued up right behind it. The passage of time is counted with a gradually filling red circle in the lower right corner of your screen and if your time is up, instead of another article, the user will find themselves back at the app’s home screen.
The more you use Readtime, the better the app gets at predicting how quickly you will get through content. That’s where things gets interesting. Through my time with the app, I found myself reading more quickly as time went on just to see how much I could get through in short breaks throughout the day.
Your first few sessions with Readtime will be mostly spent getting the app used to how fast you can read – but the more you fall into the groove with the software, the easier it is to get through more dense reading faster. Readtime seemed to notice my improved pace as well. If I settled in for a brief five minute session, the app would serve me longer articles without its typical warning that the content may be too much for me to handle in the timeframe I’d set.
As nice as getting caught up on your reading may seem, Readtime has one fatal flaw. The best real world application for Readtime seems to be sneaking in some focused reading during a lunch break or before a meeting, but the timer doesn’t actually tell you when your time is up. A small circle in the bottom right corner of your iPhone’s screen is easy to miss while in the grips of an immersive piece of e-literature. Once you realize the app is not going to give you an extra heads up, you spend much of your time glancing down at the timer instead of reading.
If you have to constantly watch the timer to see when your time is up, what’s the point in having it when there’s a clock on your phone that could serve the same purpose? Save for the gradual filling of the timer, the only sign you get that your time is up is when you swipe away an article to archive it and, instead of another piece, you are returned to the app’s home screen – now late for your meeting and in trouble with your boss for taking an extended lunch break. Once time has passed, the dial on the timer simple continues to wind back and forth within the timer’s diameter as if it’s too shy to tell you that time is up in any meaningful way.
Cogent have hit on a simple but great idea with Readtime – but their execution leaves some things to be desired. There is a lack of core functionality, primarily in having a way to alert the user when their time is up and a more precise way of measuring the length of an article. Although an update should be able to take care of these issues, hold it back from being truly useful. It can be difficult to see why anyone would buy Readtime when the web-caching services it plugs into are free and it does few things that most people couldn’t do fairly easily on their own. Readtime’s UI is beautiful in its simplicity and the app may even make you a better reader, but at $1.99 on the App Store you may want to wait for an update before picking this one up.