About a month ago, we reported on the brief and fleeting drama of the Pulse News Reader iPad app. The visual news reader was praised by Steve Jobs himself during the WWDC keynote, then abruptly yanked from the App Store after a complaint was filed by the New York Times. Well, approximately eight minutes later, the Times got over it, and Pulse for the iPad was promptly placed back in the App Store. And just a few weeks ago, the Pulse News Mini for the iPhone was released.
I wasn’t sure the app would translate well to the iPhone. But now a featured app in the App Store, Pulse is a huge hit with reviewers, and I’d go as far as to say it’s the best news reader app of the year, if not the best iPhone reader app I’ve seen. Too bold of a statement? Let’s examine the evidence.
Check out the full review after the jump
When Jobs briefly mentioned the Pulse News Reader app for the iPad in his WWDC speech, I didn’t get more than a glimpse of it but knew it was going to be an instant hit.
Besides the obvious—Jobs likes it? It’s gold—the app is the most visually appealing news reader available right now, and the possibilities the large screen on the iPad offered with such a visual app tailored for daily blog surfers were endless. So I—an iPad-less city-dweller with long commutes and a 20-plus-a-day-blog-trolling habit—was more than bummed to hear that the app wasn’t available yet for the iPhone. And now that the app has finally hit the iPhone, I couldn’t be more pleased with it as a complete experience for readers on-the-go.
Pulse for the iPhone uses the same visual effects that its iPad app companion does, shrunken down and optimized for your iPhone. After customizing which sites and blogs you want to add to the reader, you can view your blogroll in rows that resemble filmstrips, each with thumbnails from stories being updated on the site in real-time that you can flip through.
Get started by adding sites to your blogroll. The tutorial available upon first opening the app explains how to customize, but it’s fairly self-explanatory. Also, a “Pulse Hints” strip is automatically included in your “blogroll” in case you need help along the way (and it can be removed). Use the preferences button to search for any site you want to add to your blogroll (by name or URL), then add it to your list and drag to create the order you want the sites to appear in on your feed. Pulse also includes a few sites to start you out; Good magazine’s feed, NotCot.org, and Mashable are already on your home screen. I was impressed from the get-go to see these sites already on my homepage, as I was already planning to add them.
It takes just a few minutes for all of the stories in each blog to update on your screen with the proper headlines and thumbnail images. Once you tap on an article’s thumbnail image to open it, you see some appropriately-sized text along with any images included in the article. The text is easy-to-read, using a size large enough for reading pieces on your iPhone, and without much lagging as you scroll through. Along the bottom of your screen is also the same film strip from the site’s feed, allowing you to continue scrolling through articles without backtracking to your homescreen—my favorite feature in the app’s functions.
When reading an article in Pulse, you’re reading it in “text view.” If you want to see the article in “web view,” as it appears on the source’s website, you can also utilize the strip at the bottom to click on the box with the article you’re currently reading and be redirected to the article on the actual website. I can only think of a few select instances when anyone would want to do this, but it’s a nice feature to have when necessary.
Sharing features are also easy to use and very accessible. When reading an article, you can share it on Facebook, on Twitter, or via e-mail by tapping the stationary “people” icon in the top right corner. The app is also connected with the Instapaper app that allows you to save or “bookmark” articles for reading when you’re offline or out of network, and you can save articles to Instapaper from here, as well.
Recap & Conclusion
Pulse News Mini
Our Grade: A+
There literally isn’t one thing I would change about this app as it stands. A few additions could be made—a favorites list, categorization of sites—but it’s possible more will come with future updates. The overall layout of the app is dependable and very navigable, the loading times and lack of glitches are a bit astonishing, and the price is just about right for an app of this magnitude. For avid mobile readers like me, something this visually appealing and entertaining to use is a welcomed change from the typical newsreaders that have dominated the App Store for years. This is one app you’re going to want easy access to on your home screen—I even put mine on the first page, a big step for a button-placement-loyalist like me.