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One of the first news aggregator apps to take full advantage of the iPad's large screen, Pulse enjoyed tremendous early success, skyrocketing to the top of the paid apps list and grabbing a coveted spot in Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote shortly after its May 2010 launch. But competition, redesigns, and an untimely fight with the New York Times have= sent it on a bit of a rollercoaster ride, culminating with a sale to LinkedIn last April.
With version 4, Pulse fully embraces its corporate branding, with a new name, a fresh iOS 7-inspired interface, and a re-imagined way to read and find content. The first release may have been met with a loud backlash, but Alphonso Labs quickly responded to users’ complaints with a 4.0.1 update — and while it fixes many of the major gaffes, it still feels like a downgrade from the previous take.
Longtime users might be a bit taken aback by the interface, which ditches the trademark black background for a gleaming white, mostly colorless design. It’s still mostly recognizable as a Pulse app — with the familiar rows of square picture boxes overlaid with headlines — but the bleached look isn't nearly as easy on the eyes. The starkness is carried over to the article viewer, where the useful menu bar has been replaced with a series of buttons for sharing and a new comment board. Anything you write syncs back to your LinkedIn account, but since Pulse’s greatest strength is the ability to digest a day’s worth of news in minutes, we’re not sure how useful it will be to most.
Navigation is mostly the same — tap to read a story, swipe back to return to your feeds — but we found a few oddities that made us miss the old version. Editing channels is the most frustrating change, abandoning the easy sidebar for a hidden menu activated by tapping the centered Pulse icon. Searching is noticeably faster, though we found it easier to discover new feeds with the old layout. Also, the “View on Web” button has curiously been moved all the way to the bottom of the article (which kind of defeats the purpose), and the thinner font on the main screen makes it difficult to discern between read and unread articles.
The bottom line. LinkedIn Pulse skirted disaster with a quick update, but the new interface is still a step back.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7.0 or later
Retains familiarity despite interface overhaul. Easy sharing and saving of articles. Fast searching.
Interface is clunky in spots. Somewhat difficult to discover feeds. LinkedIn integration feels forced. Navigation and design quirks detract from experience.