After much speculative rumour, Facebook this morning announced the arrival of a new standalone iPhone app called Paper. Available February 3 on iOS, it looks like it will be rather more than just a plain old reading app. Rather, it looks to provide most of the content that people use Facebook for day-to-day, but in a beautifully sleek package.
Forget how your news feed currently looks. Paper takes the information held within it and turns it into a series of horizontally scrolling screens. It also features a rich WYSIWYG editor — think of something a bit like the interface of Medium — for posting, as well as a news reading app that looks, unsurprisingly, like Flipboard.
After a hands-on, Verge explains that navigation within the app is practically all gesture-driven. The UI, as well as being fast, also sounds deliciously design-rich: wide photos will pan as you move your phone, objects pleasantly fade in and out, and news stories appear like Twitter-style cards.
Sections in Paper, including your news feed and the new reader, are built around a main cover photo, with a small selection of cards at the bottom to browse through, one at a time. It sounds like Facebook is deliberately trying to slow down your consumption a little, and that might be no bad thing.
In the news reader, swiping into a card takes you to the source site, which means it won't work offline. Also, there's no option to add specific sites to your account like you would using RSS feeds: instead, Facebook has a new team of content specialists who will pick out content that it thinks you'll be interested in. That won't be to everyone's tastes, but it might prove useful for those who don't already closely curate their incoming online news.
All-in, it sounds like Facebook may have created a beautiful standalone app that could actually usurp its main app for a whole heap of people. We'll find out if that's the case in February. [Facebook, The Verge]