Pure for Flickr Makes Flickr Minimal

I’ve made it no secret that I love the new Flickr. I think it’s a great way to share photos. I use it for my business all the time to privately share photos with my clients using Flickr’s Guest Pass feature, and so far they’ve all loved the experiences, too.

But nothing is perfect. It’s nice to see alternative takes on a product we love, so I was really excited to see Pure for Flickr. It’s a lightweight, minimalist way to browse Flickr photos. Naturally, I downloaded it right away. Read on to find out more.

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Minimalist UI

The first thing you’ll notice about Pure for Flickr is that it does just about everything as minimally as possible. It’s a wall-to-wall poster of images that you scroll through from top to bottom, no matter which part of the Flickr site you’re in.

It's a pretty "pure" way to look at images.

It’s a pretty “pure” way to look at images.

Frankly, it kind of feels like what would happen to Flickr if they let Jony Ive get a hold of it, which is both good and bad. There are some things that have been taken away, like an easy way to comment on a photo or remove it from your Favourites. There are also some things that have been changed completely. Speaking of Favourites, since there are no on-screen buttons, you double-tap an image to make it a Favourite. That’s all well and good, but double-tapping the image again doesn’t remove it from your favourites, so it feels inconsistent.

Swipe once to the left to see a photo in more detail.

Swipe once to the left to see a photo in more detail.

Beyond that, the app operates with swipes. Swipe once to the left to see a photo in detail, swipe again to share it on Twitter or Facebook (or download it without the photographer’s explicit permission, if you’re feeling risqué), and swipe one more time to get to Flickr’s website.

But for some things, like comments, you'll have to rely on Flickr's website.

But for some things, like comments, you’ll have to rely on Flickr’s website.

When you’re in Flickr’s website, all hints of the minimal UI are gone. You’re in a web browser. This means you get all of the features of Flickr in a glorified web browser that’s slower than Safari, but you have to use the website to do things like add comments.

The Problem With Minimalism

The problem with the app can be summed up, then, in that regard. I have to use Flickr’s website to do things I like to do on Flickr, like add a comment to a photo or show off my Sets. I can’t do that from within the app.

Minimalism detracts from a lot of things that Flickr offers. While Flickr’s regular app isn’t perfect, Pure takes so much away that it really makes Flickr a very basic social network — like Instagram without the comments. That’s not inherently a problem — for a lot of people, that’s how they use Flickr. But I have to get all this out of the way because if you have a different use case for the site, your needs likely aren’t supported for Pure and it’s not worth your time.

That being said, Pure knows that it’s not for everybody. It treats Flickr’s Photo Streams differently.

Pure Photos, All the Time

Pure breaks down the app into a few separate categories: Photo Feed, Home, Favorite, Interesting and Latest.

Photo Feed is the same as your current contacts’ newsfeed for photos. Home is your Photo Stream, which isn’t broken down into Sets or anything like that — like everything else, it’s literally a stream of photos.

Pure breaks things down differently than Flickr does.

Pure breaks things down differently than Flickr does.

Favorite is for the photos you’ve favourited, and Interesting is for photos that are trending on Flickr. Because Pure doesn’t allow you to see any photo’s comments, there’s not really any explanation as to why an image might be trending, but the feature is there nonetheless.

Latest is a sort of global Photo Stream similar to the global feed for social networks like App.net. Interesting and Latest are my favourite places to go in the app, but Latest gets the slight edge for being consistently different every time I check it out. There’s always new photos to see.

The one problem with the Latest feed is that it doesn’t incorporate the nearly-standard pull-to-refresh feature most social networks have. In fact, pulling from the top of the screen in any Photo Stream throughout the app allows you to search. Refreshing a Stream requires leaving the Stream and then returning, which can be a little cumbersome.

Minor Inconsistencies

There are also a couple other minor things I don’t like about the app. If I want to zoom in on an image, I have to tap it — which fades its title and caption — and then pinch to zoom. When I’m done zooming, tapping will un-zoom an image and bring back the title and caption. Why can’t I just pinch-to-zoom without all the extra touching to unlock and lock the feature?

I can favourite an image, but can I un-favourite it?

I can favourite an image, but can I un-favourite it?

Also, the app doesn’t feature landscape support, which seems silly considering how many photos are taken in a 3:2 aspect ratio. I’d much prefer to just rotate my phone when looking at an image instead of zoom, but the app doesn’t give me much my choice.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Some elements of the interface though, are beautiful. I’m particularly fond of the Share menu, which reminds me a lot of Analog Camera (my go-to third-party camera app). The buttons are big and follow flat UI design trends, but I think they’re timeless and obvious.

I dig the Share menu buttons.

I dig the Share menu buttons.

And there is something to be said for the way Pure displays Flickr’s photos. In some ways, it feels like the way they were meant to be seen — no distractions. Placing the focus on the photo feels like a reversal of a lot of what Flickr stands for because it rejects the community, but it also feels like a return to tradition. And I can appreciate that.

It’s also really easy to add a photo, which I like, but it has to be imported from your Photo Library. You can’t take a picture with Pure for Flickr, which I assume must be because of Flickr’s API rules.

Final Thoughts

I want to love Pure and heartily recommend it, but I’m not sure I can. It’s a testament to mostly smart (but occasionally inconsistent) design that the app works as well as it does, but in making Flickr a little more minimal, it also eliminates some of Flickr’s core features.

In effect, Pure makes the social photo platform feel a little more like a news feed photo platform — like a visual Twitter. You likely already know if you find that idea appealing, and if you do, Pure for Flickr is well worth your hard-earned cash.


Pure for Flickr is a gorgeous app, but it doesn't include some of what makes Flickr unique.