Facebook has introduced Paper, a mobile app that mixes content from a user's own feed with articles from "well-known publications" and displays it all with a new interface.
The app will first be available for Apple's iPhone in the U.S. on Feb. 3, Facebook said on Thursday.
The first section in Paper is made up of a user's Facebook News Feed, where the user can see photos, videos, and longer written posts. Additionally, users can customize the app by choosing among more than a dozen other sections, including photography, sports, food, science and design. Each will include a mix of content from "emerging voices and well-known publications," Facebook said.
The basic user interface consists of a top half of the screen, which displays one post or story with an image, and a second section below, where a number of smaller thumbnails are displayed. Users can then swipe to view more content and tap to see it in detail. Images and videos can be showed in full-screen mode.
The interface has been built from the ground up for touch devices. Users can, for example, tilt their phone to show different parts of a high-resolution panoramic photo from corner to corner, and see faces and other important details up close, according to Facebook.
Paper is the first product from Facebook Creative Labs, which is working on "new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share," Facebook said.
Whether Paper becomes available for other mobile OSes, including Android, remains to be seen. For now, Facebook is only saying that it will "consider other devices down the line based on feedback." It also doesn't have any immediate plans for a tablet version of the app, a spokeswoman said via email.
Mobile is an area where Facebook hasn't always been successful. Last year, the company introduced Home for Android, which added a new interface layer on top of Google's mobile OS. It is still available, but hasn't been a hit among users. With Paper, Facebook is trying to offer a new way to use the social network on smartphones that is much less disruptive than Home.
Since Facebook is a free service it has to add functionality to continue to grow, but it has to be careful and not become too invasive, according to Nick Spencer, senior practice director at ABI Research.
Mobile has become a much more important source of revenue for Facebook. Of the company's total ad sales during the fourth quarter last year, over half came from ads placed on mobile devices. During the same period in 2012, only 23 percent of the company's advertising revenue was derived from mobile, it said on Wednesday.
The app will compete with the likes of Flipboard. For an early look, users can visit the app's website.
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