Facebook has launched Paper, a new application which takes the best of your News Feed and then adds in curated news content from around the world, making it a hybrid of both the standard Facebook app and news readers like Flipboard. It’s the work of Facebook’s Creative Labs team, which lets the now massive company still come up with innovative apps which work alongside the social network’s primary business.
For now, Paper has been given a restricted release in America, but Facebook will inevitably open it up to international audiences in the future, although for now it hasn’t provided any dates. We’ve given Paper a spin to see what all the fuss is about, and to give you an idea whether it’s worth waiting for or not.
Upon downloading Paper, you’re shown a quick video of the app in action, before being thrown into an app setup process. Here, the unusual control system is explained, along with some guidance on how to add content. Your News Feed is added automatically, then you can slot in some Facebook-approved and curated options, on subjects such as technology and sport, plus some more left-field sections like Cute, LOL and Glow.
Moving around the app is all about swiping up and down. The screen is split in two, with the top half showing your content groups, and the bottom section the individual stories. Slide through them, and swipe one which catches your eye up towards the top of the screen. Once it pops open, you can slide images to make them appear full screen, then slide them aside when you’re done. A left or right swipe takes you to other stories, or a downward swipe closes it.
Stories from your News Feed feature prominently, and depending on how busy your Facebook account is, they will take up the majority of the app’s display. Text posts are shown with a white background, making them a little boring. Images and videos are great though. If the picture is sufficiently high in resolution, you can tilt the phone left or right to explore the whole thing. It’s really beautiful. Get to an embedded YouTube video – or any link to an external site, actually – and a swipe “unfolds” it, making it ready to view. It’s fluid, fast, and really great to use. Paper‘s design and UI sets a new benchmark for this type of app.
Paper is a Facebook app, so the majority of tools seen in the standard app are all there for you too. Posts can be Liked, shared or commented on. Sliding the entire screen down (like opening the notifications tray) brings up a new menu, where you can access your own Facebook page, or create a new post. These can be text or image based, with pictures coming directly from your phone’s camera roll.
Add in a host of content approved by Facebook’s editors, and if you don’t really use Facebook for messages or chat, there’s little incentive to use anything but Paper for viewing it again. It looks great, the control system is wonderfully natural, and it makes viewing even the most uninteresting Facebook account somewhat worthwhile.
However, aside from the swiping, sliding and tilting, there’s nothing in Paper which you can’t find elsewhere, and more comprehensively too. If you like reading news, then Flipboard is the better option as it’s more customisable. If you want to see what’s going on in Facebook, then the standard app does the job.
If you can’t download Paper right now, you’re not really missing out, as it doesn’t do anything new. What’s more, it’s for the iPhone only and doesn’t come with native iPad support, and there’s no Android equivalent either. Paper feels like what it is, a fun side project which doesn’t really do anything new, but manages to look and feel awesome. When the time comes, you’ll want to try Paper out, just expect to be blown away by the interface and the app’s design, rather than its actual usefulness.
Facebook has said that for the time being its Paper app will not be available in the UK, due to the social network having only a small team dedicated to working on the innovation. Should this change in the future, we’ll be sure to let you know.