For years, I’ve moved between Android and iOS, usually changing operating systems when a new phone grabs my attention. It’s a constant “push and pull” problem: the combination of a phone’s unique features, the operating system, and my desire to have a “perfect mobile experience”. Rarely is that experience as perfect as I want it to be. As an iPhone loyalist, I judge everything against the experience I have with iOS, Apple’s hardware, and the overall platform’s ecosystem. As iPhone has seemingly “shrunk” in form factor, staying at an untenable 4″ screen size in light of other manufacturers’ growing screens, I’ve gravitated toward the larger-screen phones, most recently, the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5, for once, is the perfect phone for me. It’s size and form factor seem the perfect size for my palm, my pants, and my weary eyes. KitKat is the best version of Android to date and, simply put, I’ve never been so satisfied with a smartphone. I’ve kinda cast away the thoughts of going back to iPhone. Yes, there are the nagging rumors of the coming iPhone 6 with a larger screen, but KitKat has a hold on me unlike any that iOS has ever had.
However, Apple’s advantage is their App Store. And, with Facebook’s iPhone-only new app, Paper, being released today, I’ve begun to wonder: can one app make me go back? I hate the feeling of being left out: when an app is only available on “another” platform, I get frustrated. Facebook turns 10 years old today, and there’s new research that shows its users have evolved their expectations of what the Facebook experience means for them. In light of this, Facebook’s Paper app is an attempt to evolve how Facebook interacts with its users and how it expects to provide new types of interaction between you and your Facebook friends. Paper reformats the typical Facebook experience with a more visually stunning approach (similar to what Google Plus did with their app), and turns your Facebook feed into a “Flipboard-like” magazine experience. Development of the app was led by a team that Facebook acquired from Apple in 2011, and represents Facebook’s obvious prioritization of rich visual design. The obvious plus to Paper is it gives you a platform-specific experience optimized for what that platform can best provide. In this sense, it may mean more fragmentation in apps if Facebook determines to release platform-optimized Facebook experiences across the board. However, it also means that Facebook evolves from being a fast-food experience (dumbed down UIs to provide a similar experience across all devices), to a more holistic and optimal experience based on whatever platform you’re on. The Paper app could signal a new frontier in designing and developing app experiences that mold more to its user’s context, and is a step-forward to a more humanistic experience. This means our platform decisions may no longer be made based on just price, carrier subsidies, form factors, and operating systems. We may begin making decisions based on all these plus the type of app experience we prefer based on how we use our phones.