Date: Thursday, January 30th, 2014, 09:50
Category: App Store, Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone, Social, Software, User Interface
Facebook announced that come February 3rd, its new iOS app called Paper should be hitting the US AppStore for iPhone only. So what is Paper? It seems that it is intended to be a number of things, although Facebook seems to be emphasizing the angle that is for news reading, not just from your friends, but from a variety of feeds that Facebook makes available within the app. Whether Paper is intended to eventually replace its current app hasn’t been mentioned, but from the looks of the demo video it comes close.
If you use the news aggregator Flipboard, you’ll probably recognize some similarities between the apps. Rather than the typical vertical scrolling News Feed, Paper turns posts into “cards” that you can flip through and expand to read. Rather than using buttons for navigation, the Facebook developers designed the interface around a series of gestures. Swipe side to side to scroll through cards, swipe up to open the card, and swiping down to close posts and return to the card browsing screen. There are also some very clever uses of some of the iPhone 5S’s new technology. When you open a landscape oriented photo, for example, Paper fills the entire screen and you can rotate the device to pan across the image to see the rest of it. It looks really cool and might be a solution to always having to pinch outward in the Facebook app in order to see any detail in the photo.
More important, at least to Facebook, is the ability to add additional “sections” alongside your Facebook feed. Going into the Customize preferences of the app, you are presented with a fan of cards with names like Headlines, Flavors, Creators, and Tech which you can drag up into your list and present you with content from such sources as Time, CNN, and The New York Times. Once you return to your home screen, you can swipe left and right to change sections and view available articles, photos and videos.
From the looks of things, you will still be able to like and post things to your timeline, but there is no indication that the app will access group content or view events. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s something that Facebook plans to transition later, but maybe it’s fine with having two apps. Perhaps it isn’t meant to serve you news in addition to your Facebook feed, but simply to treat your feed just like any other news source it offers and Paper is the way to collect all your news in one place. I’m curious to see how flexible it is and whether it has the potential to replace RSS readers. It’s reported to be completely ad-free, but only time will tell if it will stay that way if Paper gains a large user base. It will definitely be interesting to try it out when it shows up in the AppStore. The interface really does look very elegant and well thought out, and may inspire other apps to “borrow” some of its interface.