Pulse, a unique,graphical RSS feed reader stirred up a bit of controversy when it first appeared for iOS devices in the Apple App Store. Fortunately, it made it past that fiasco and since then, developers Alphonso Labs, have worked feverishly to bring the popular app to the world of Android. Now that it has arrived, we take an in-depth look at it's features.
The driving feature behind Pulse is it's graphical presentation of your feeds. Instead of just giving you a textual listing of feed headlines, Pulse goes a bit further by incorporating images included in the feeds as backgrounds to the headlines. Feeds are presented in a grid layout, with each separate feed in it's own row. Individual articles are blocks on each row. In portrait mode, each row displays three blocks (articles) at a time. In landscape, this jumps to five. To view more articles, you just swipe on a row to scroll it to the left.
The app is very responsive to user actions and scrolling through articles or feeds is snappy. A battery-saving "feature" of Pulse is that it doesn't periodically refresh feeds in the background on it's own, nor is there an option to have it sync at scheduled intervals. Instead, feeds are refreshed when the application is launched. This results in a delay each time the app is opened as it performs a refresh before you see the most up to date items.
Pulse does cache the content it receives from each feed on your phone. This allowed for using it in airplane mode or when you're out of range of WiFi or 3G/4G. The downside is that it only cached what is available in the feed, not entire articles. When you want to view the original article, Pulse launches your default web browser.
We used Pulse for a couple of days exclusively for getting our RSS-fix. During that time, we noticed some negatives to the app that hopefully will be addressed in future releases:
- There are no read/unread marks for articles
- Images occasionally didn't display for some articles. This wasn't a huge deal, but seemed kind of strange for an application whose biggest selling point is it's graphical approach
- The application limits you to a maximum of 20 feeds
- No adjustments for font size, type, or color
On the positive side, Pulse did do a nice job of pulling in our list of feeds from Google Reader, up to the maximum of 20. Fortunately, it gives you the ability to pick and choose which feeds you want to import. You can also enter feeds manually if you choose. There are no other options for automatically importing feeds, and no search methodology. Pulse also provides some basic social functions through options to share articles via email, Facebook, or Twitter. We would like to see Instapaper integration though, which is apparently available in the iPhone version, as is syncing read/unread marks with Google Reader.
Bottom Line? We liked Pulse, and enjoyed using it for the most part. I, personally, don't see it becoming my go-to news reader, but it does a nice job at what it's designed to do, and that is present your feeds in a more visual style that breaks from the monotony of most readers. I tend to be a traditionalist in some ways though, and still prefer to view feeds the old-fashion way: a plain old list of headlines. Is it worth dropping a $1.99 on? I say yes. It's not a huge investment to see if you like the format.