Matt Lynley | Dec. 11, 2011, 9:36 AM
For starters, the app looks flat out gorgeous.
Path already wows you with an absolutely gorgeous interface. When you pull down on the screen, it will show you what time each post — called a “moment” — went live with a little elegant clock on the top right.
It’s one of the smoothest app experiences on the iPhone. Everything feels seamless — you access the options by pushing the screen out of the way to the right and find your friends by swiping it to the left.
Each image has stunning resolution for the tiny screen on your iPhone and shines with the retina display. You don’t have to jump to a full screen to enjoy each photo — it’s good enough to just view them in the timeline.
It has its own built-in variation of Instagram.
Instagram is a hugely popular photo-sharing app that was the top app on the Apple App Store this year. It’s used by more than 14 million people — and for good reason, because it’s so easy to share photos and comes with cool camera lenses.
Path takes all those crazy camera lenses and drops them right into the app. You have access to a bunch of camera lenses right off the bat and can buy new ones if you want. When you snap a photo, it goes right into your path.
Conversations are super light-weight.
Facebook restricts its lightweight communication on the site to whether you “like” a post or not. It serves a great purpose, but it still doesn’t offer a whole lot of variation and odds are you’ll want to comment.
In path, you communicate with a few emoticons. It seems small and silly, but it’s actually a very elegant way of describing how you feel about a moment. There’s a gasp, a frown, a laugh, a smile, and a bunch of other ways to describe it. You just tap on the moment and hit the face you like best.
You communicate with videos.
I took a photo one night of a friend making a weird face. No more than 30 seconds later did a friend form San Francisco already have a video response up to the photo.
Yes, a video response. It was short, sweet, and hilarious. And it was way better than a comment on Facebook could have ever been. Videos are able to convey more emotion and feeling than raw text.
And the best part of the whole experience is that you don’t have to jump out of path to view the video. It doesn’t jump to full screen. You just watch it in the timeline.
Tagging people and adding your location is easy.
Whenever you’re ready to add a moment, you tag people by tapping a big section on the lower left-hand side of the screen.
Right away, the friends you interact with most on Path are ready to show up on that moment. You don’t have to dig around to find them or type in their names to search for them.
And by definition, it will be easier to find the people you are closest with on Path, rather than having to pore through hundreds of friends on Facebook to find the right people.
It’s best for small groups of people.
Human beings weren’t built to keep track of a huge number of people at any given time. That gave rise to Robin Dunbar’s theory of how many individuals we could track.
Facebook is meant to be a sort of cybernetic augmentation to our brains and helps us keep track of a much larger circle of friends. It seems like the average number of friends on Facebook is around 300 to 500 people — much higher than you would physically expect to track.
But it’s hard, if not impossible, to interact with those 500 people. Path, in comparison, focuses on the smaller core circle of friends and gives you a much deeper way to interact with them. I can keep track of my closest friends still in Texas and San Francisco and regularly communicate with them, instead of randomly commenting on their posts on Facebook.
Path makes you feel more in touch with your closest friends than loosely connected with people you barely know any more. It’s way more useful as a communication tool than Facebook has the potential to be.
The number of people using it will surprise you.
Whenever you go out, there’s a good chance you’ll find someone that is using path. In fact, they’ll probably be raving about it.
I try and ask around whenever I’m out whether anyone is using path, and the answer is almost always yes — usually several times a night. I get friend requests from people in Texas, Florida, California and even Kansas.
Path is everywhere. It already has more than 1 million users. It has a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 after nearly 7,000 reviews. And that’s just the start.
It never leaves your phone.
None of this would work if there were two different avenues for Path.
Facebook has a smaller, more seamless version on a smartphone and a large and much more clunky version on the web. Path, by comparison, forces you to check your smartphone — and you’re better off doing that.
Whenever you check your smartphone, you’ll see what everyone is up to straight away from your notification screen. For the iPhone, that’s the lock screen, and it works great. It religiously pushes notifications but they never seem to be infringing and annoying and they’re easy to track.
We’re entering an era where apps dominate most of what we do. Odds are you use your smartphone more than your computer to interact with the Internet. You’ll never feel like you have to visit a website — like you would to, say, modify your account with Facebook. It’s all built into the app.
Path is one of the best new iPhone apps of 2011
Image: Steve Kovach, Business Insider