Paper: A review of Facebook’s new app for iOS

The Paper Homescreen

Facebook wants to replace your morning newspaper. Paper, the latest app from the web behemoth, is an ambitious attempt to not only redefine your Facebook experience, but also provide you with information that you normally rely on newspapers for. I decided to test the app myself to see whether it was as good as FB claims, and whether or not you should consider downloading it.

While waiting for the app to download I noticed the by-line: Paper|Stories from Facebook. The app’s focus on stories would soon become apparent. After downloading the app, I was greeted by  a simple start up screen and a voice tutorial guided me through the basics of setting my preferences and navigating the app. So far so good.

The app is divided into different “sections” which you can add or remove as you like. Each section is almost like a column in the newspaper and is based on themes and interest such as: Tech, Scores, Enterprise, Flavor etc. The very first section is Facebook—in other words, your stories. Photos and statuses posted by friends are displayed in a dynamic grid structure that fits nicely on your mobile screen without overwhelming you with content. The content changes slowly, allowing you to see if anything of interest catches your eye.

Scrolling is easy, too: just swipe towards the left. Clicking on any of the posts/photos opens them in a completely functional full screen display. Facebook refers to each piece of content generated by your friends as a “story” and these stories form the heart of the app. While Facebook’s never-ending newsfeed ensures you only give each item a cursory glance, the full screen spotlight of Paper often keeps your attention riveted on a single story alone.

The app is also good at displaying photos, requiring you to tilt the phone to see a photo fully. This feels completely intuitive and allows higher definition photos to fit seamlessly on the screen. You can like and comment on the “stories” from the full screen itself and to move to the next story you simply swipe. Simple and pleasing.

Moving on to the other sections, we see a similar format. There is little flexibility in determining the content in each section—you can only choose whether you want a section or not. While this is in harmony with the minimalist nature of the app, power users might find this frustrating. The more tech savvy users will probably still rely on RSS Feed reader or Flipboard for news updates. Despite this lack of control, most users will find the sections useful to quickly find out what’s happening around the world or in their particular area of interest.

Choose which "sections" you want

Creating your own story is only a swipe away. Swiping down allows you to post directly from the app. You can include photos, videos and geo-tag your location. The editor is clean and straightforward, though a bit cramped. The ubiquitous three—friend requests, messages and notification icons—are also present in the top right corner of the app and, though tiny, serve their function well.

The Verdict: Paper is a powerful app that transforms your Facebook experience from a mindless, bottom-less scroll to a leisurely perusal of stories. While it still misses some features like “upcoming events”, and its news capabilities aren’t as robust as its competitors, it provides a different, more curated Facebook experience for those who have grown tired of the endless barrage of information the site entails. It is definitely worth downloading and giving a try. It just might replace your morning newspaper. You can find out more about Paper on its official website, and in the App store.

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