I remember Pulse being one of the apps that made me want to check out the iPad. I thought that sifting through multiple streams of content just by scrolling was a novel idea, but when I first got my hands on Pulse 2.0 last year, I was disappointed. It’s not that apps like Reeder for iPad and Flipboard aren’t enough – I just like seeing how different apps can approach the challenge of presenting me with the news I care about.
Pulse 3.0 hit the App Store late last week with a refreshed look and completely new icon, so I decided to give it another shot. The app is now universal, which means it’s easier to update across both iPhone and iPad. The tabs at the top of the screen have been replaced by a sidebar that shows your personally customized pages, which makes the whole app look cleaner. Each stream on a page can scroll infinitely, allowing you to see the last week’s or last year’s worth of content, depending on how much you scroll.
Pulse looks great the first time you load it up, especially if you have visually-rich feeds for food, fashion, or tech. However, the app still doesn’t distinguish enough between read and unread content (read items are just grayed out). The seemingly arbitrary 12-stream limit for pages also annoys me. I have folders in Google Reader that contain more RSS feeds than Pulse’s 12-stream limit will allow, so Pulse simply won’t accommodate them properly. It forces me to divide folders into several folders (e.g. Apple 1, Apple 2, etc.), when I’d rather see everything related to Apple products on a single page.
I like how sources on a page can be Facebook timelines or Twitter feeds, but I wish that Pulse was more tailored to the individual services it can pull from. I can’t “Like” or “Favorite” anything from Twitter or Facebook, and I still can’t “Star” items from Google Reader. Pulse would rather have you use the service as your social media and RSS hub. Pulse can save articles or links from sources within a special “Saved” section, accessible from the iOS apps or the Pulse web app on the desktop. This experience falls short because the Pulse web app isn’t quite ready for prime time; it still can’t show my Twitter timeline, and it won’t even show the contents of saved tweets.
Ultimately, I feel like Pulse hasn’t quite kept up with the times. Scrolling vertically and horizontally through feeds and pages still looks great, but I want the interface to feel more like the apps I’m using in 2012 – especially when it comes to gesture support. I want to be able to pinch or double-tap articles shut, tap-and-hold to see more options, or swipe to see the sidebar (though I can swipe to close it). Apps like Clear for iPhone, Flipboard for iPad, and even the new native Facebook app (with its swipe-to-close gesture for pictures) have made great strides in touch computing. They recognize that a mixture of on-screen buttons and gestures are a great way to accommodate new users while pleasing power users, and Pulse 3.0 – as pretty as the new icon is – just doesn’t feel like it has added enough to the Pulse experience. I’ll dutifully check out the next version of Pulse because I still think the premise holds promise, but an hour with Pulse 3.0 has shown it still isn’t for me.