Version Reviewed: 1.1
Reviewed on: iPad
iPhone Integration Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use Value Rating:
The iPad is a device made for reading. iBooks is the most popular free application in the App Store, and media companies are rushing to put out their own apps (Wired, for example, just launched theirs recently). Those who enjoy their own media curation, however, will gravitate towards RSS readers. The app store has plenty, like the acclaimed Early Edition and the eagerly awaited Reeder. Many mirror the user interfaces of their iPhone app relatives or their desktop and web based counterparts. One RSS reader that breaks this mold is Alphonso Labs' Pulse. The app's unique user interface is best explained by its creators in the below video:
The Reading Experience
Billing itself as a "clean and elegant news reader," Pulse puts a clear premium on the reading experience itself. The application displays news sources as horizontal strips of articles, each of which is scrollable. Moving vertically shows more news sources. There is an important visual component here as all of the news sources include photos. No longer is reading solely a textual experience - Pulse makes the discovery and choice of articles a more vibrant process.
Reading articles is also simple, with the app offering to serve up either a text or web version of the story. In landscape view, you can view stories side-by-side with the typical Pulse interface, while portrait forces you to dedicate the entire screen to reading. The design for individual stories is sparse, with text and pictures on a white background as the typical page.
Not for News Junkies
I'm a self-described news junkie, reading in excess of 50-75 different sites per day. Pulse is a terrific reader for catching up on the most important of those sites but can't handle all of the content as well as my preferred reader, NewsRack. That, however, seems to be the app's intention as it's limited to only twenty news sources.
A recent update added new features to complement Pulse's clever "smart search," which allows users to enter a topic and get RSS feeds that pertain to it. Now, users can add their own RSS feeds by entering a feed URL, a web site (Pulse will automatically find the feed on the site), or with Google Reader integration. The interesting thing to note is that the Google Reader integration is just for feed discovery and not for syncing. My favorite reader, NewsRack, syncs the read and unread status of posts with Google Reader, making it the perfect complement to the desktop solution. I suppose, however, that Pulse's approach to Google Reader integration is the same as their approach to the rest of the app - one for the casual reader.
A New Type of RSS Reader
The Pulse reader seems to me more of an experience than a simple RSS reader. It gives you a terrific view of the news at a glance and allows you to dive a little deeper to read individual stories. It's perfect for the iPad user who needs a few sources of news and wants to see them in a beautifully laid out interface. For anything more, however, Pulse cannot be your reader of choice. It unfortunately simply is not built to handle large quantities of RSS feeds. Yet its beautiful design, simple social features, and ease of use may be enough for most users. The developers have also shown great response to user feedback and released the 1.1 update mere days after launching the application itself. Pulse isn't just coming up with a new take on the RSS reader - they're redefining it.