(USA TODAY) - Is it possible that Facebook created a better mobile app for perusing its social network than, well, Facebook?
On Monday, Facebook launched Paper, an app that combines key features of the social network with a news reader, packaging it all together in a Flipboard-style layout.
Paper is drastically different than the standard Facebook app available on the iPhone, and in some ways, it might be a lot better.
When you launch the free app, a video kicks in to give users a sense of what they're getting themselves into with Paper. Because Paper is so different from the traditional Facebook experience on mobile, voice tips follow every move to help users get comfortable.
Then, users select a series of sections to go along with their Facebook News Feed. Categories include Headlines, Tech, Score (Sports), Pop Life (Entertainment) and Flavor (cooking). In total, users choose between 19 sections.
The first section houses the News Feed. The top half features a larger photo that cycles updates from friends, while the bottom half displays the News Feed as a series of rectangular panels users can swipe left to right. Normally, users will see 2-3 at a time, but they can expand their view to check out their Feed one update at a time.
If users come across a link they like, they swipe up to go to that page, and a swipe down returns them to the News Feed. Users check out photos by tilting their phones left or right, or turn their phone to landscape view for a better view, like the standard Facebook app.
On the main feed, swiping down will also access your Profile, Create Post to update your status, Settings and Edit Sections. The upper right of the screen is where users check out Friend Requests, Messages and Notifications.
Swiping the larger image left to right flips between sections, which feature a combination of stories and tweets from notable names in their respective industry.
It's hard to believe, but Paper makes the Facebook News Feed more interesting to explore. The Flipboard-style emphasis on photos makes thumbing through images shared by Friends more appealing. It's like reading a newspaper, only your friends' activity is mixed in with the stories of the day.
There are a few things Paper could do to make the news reader portion of the experience more inviting. There doesn't seem to be a way to customize the sources for each section, outside of just hiding stuff you don't like. It would also be nice to have an option to create your own, personalized sections.
There are also some limits to what you can update through Paper. For example, users can't update their cover or profile photos within Paper, so it's best to hang on to that Facebook app just in case.
Paper might not be for everybody. If you're not a fan of Flipboard or similar apps, you can always stick with the official Facebook app. But Paper is a gorgeous alternative.