People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 21: Pair

Pair is an app that allows couples to stay in touch through a single stream of communication. It is available for download on www.trypair.com where it is described as:

An app for just the two of you. Texting, sharing videos, photos, sketching together, thumbkiss and more.

Launched on the iOS platform, it is now available on Android as well. Users can send those with an iPhone or Android Phone a request to pair up. Creating multiple pairs isn’t allowed, though it’s easy to unpair and re-pair.

Pair has some interactive features like Live Drawing Utility, Thinking of You, Joint To-do List and Facetime.

‘ThumbKiss’ for instance, is a feature where both partners press their thumbs together on their screens. When the thumbprints line up, both phones vibrate and the screen turns deep red.

Founder, Oleg Kostour explains:

We thought, if we’re so disconnected, how can we use our mobile devices to feel a little bit closer, to feel like we can touch each other?

When both partners are online, the app acts like a chat programme indicating when the other person is typing and lights up a button on the screen that lets them initiate a facetime conversation.

Couples can maintain a joint to-do list and also send a ‘thinking of you’ message.

The intimate features and ability to express without bothering about prying eyes is what makes the app popular. As ‘Android Police’ blogger, Erin Ravenscraft explains:
Now, let’s be real. Romantic relationships are a unique and complex beast. It’s a special relationship between two people and only those two people get to define how it works. It’s beautiful. It can be cheesy, or sappy, or weird. This app gives couples the freedom to express affection or just manage life in a variety of ways. You want to play tic tac toe or doodle with your lover? You’ve got it! It’s actually a really neat idea and some couples should absolutely go for it.

In a way, Pair is a lot like Path. Both networks have a similar UI and features, and focus on sharing moments with a private network.

Mashable Blogger, Sarah Kesslerm says:

The app takes the concept behind Path a step further. Instead of sharing personal updates within a small network, it’s a way to stay constantly connected with the smallest of networks — one other person.

Critics could argue that it’s a private Facebook for couples. Social networks for couples were launched before Pair as well. Cupple, Duet and Between attempted to create a private stream of interactive media.

Some also call it the Super-SMS. Pair offers users the option to text, but with a lot more media and at lower costs.

Jamie Murai, a co-founder at Pair explains:

In text-messaging, you have to scroll through a list. Sometimes you think you’re sending a message to your girlfriend, but it’s actually going to your workout buddy. You can be confident that once you tap on the Pair icon, everything you share is only shared with your partner.

Unlike other apps, this one was created for personal use by the co-founders. Kostour moved from Canada to Mountain View to build a 3D software startup. Instead, he built an app to stay in touch with his girlfriend. Kostour told Co.Design:

When we first moved to Mountain View, we found ourselves very disconnected from our significant others back home.

Three of the five men who helped create Pair are in long-distance relationships.

There is also a real market for long distance couples as their number is rising. One recent study, in the journal Communication Research , finds that as many as half of the college students are in long-distance relationships, “and up to 75% will be at some point.”

Kostour told Co.Design:

Our girlfriends were in Canada, and we were trying to stay connected with them using Skype, SMS, Facebook, and email. The communication was scattered across many products, and we always felt like there was something missing.

Pair consolidates all these functions. “If I want to talk to her, I don’t have to tap anywhere else,” Kostour says adding, “Just tap one button and I’m talking to her right away.”
Couples like Mashable reader Waegook_Tom have taken to this app

This app is so cute – and such a great idea. I may be away from my partner for a few months next year, so something that’s kind of an all-in-one communication tool, like this, looks incredible. You developers are geniuses!

Some marketing experts call it an ‘anti-social network’ in a way. While Facebook constantly pushes people to expand their friend circles, Pair is all about one person only. Pair can be labelled as an app rather than a social network.

Social media enthusiasts are realising the need for privacy and quality.

As mentioned by New York Times writer, Randal Stross

FACEBOOK makes sharing easy — too easy, some would say. Because one’s social network often consists not only of actual friends but also relatives and sort-of friends, along with sort-of friends of their sort-of friends, you need to be careful about what you post. Yes, the site does allow you to define smaller circles of friends, but that requires constantly monitoring what should — and should not — be shared with whom.

Networks such as Path, Familyleaf and Pair have created a niche by focusing on smaller groups. Path is restricted to 150 friends, Family is restricted to family members while Pair is as small as a social network can be.

Dave Morin, former Facebook employee and current Path employee explains:
Facebook has made socializing on the Internet normal. But now there is an opportunity to return to intimate socializing.

What can get users to sign up is a network that is readily accessible. Private social networks therefore leverage the power of mobile phones.

Pair, Path and FamilyLeaf are all mobile-first apps for this very reason. The valuation of these companies is impressive. Path is the market leader and was able to raise $30 million at a $250 million valuation. It reportedly had around three million users as of the April funding, with half a million people on it multiple times per day.

Facebook has started feeling the heat and is gradually changing its focus to mobile. Facebook has recently introduced Timeline and Timeline apps to encourage sharing through mobiles.
2012 could well be the year of private social networks. Tech Crunch writer, Eric Eldon said:

With more and more people shunning Facebook because of their lackadaisical approach to privacy and their focus on targeting ads to you, it could happen. We very well ms on a great mobile experience when we created Glassboard. This is the same approach other small social networks are taking, like Pair and Path. Mobile could be Facebook’s downfall. The Facebook mobile experience is clunky. People want something streamlined and simple when they are on their phones, which is what we strive for in our app. Facebook may never be able to master the mobile experience because it’s too big, you have too many different groups of friends/family/colleagues on it and there are too many features.

An increasing number of people are using high-quality smartphones. Great cameras provide a superior photo and video experience and location-based networking allows users to share their locations. Previous generation of web-based social networks cannot offer these features.

Should Facebook and similar networks feel threatened? Not quite. Facebook still has more than 200 million users. Twitter has around 150 million while Instagram has 50 million users. In comparison, Path has merely 3 million users while Pair has 220,000 users.

Private networks have split the social network fraternity into 2 different categories — mainstream networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google + — and private networks like Path, Glassdoor, Pair.

Both these can co-exist as they serve different purposes. Networks within both categories will however be direct competition. While Pair wouldn’t compete with Path, it would do so with Cupple

As mentioned by writer, Randal Stross in the New York Times:

These micro- and supermicro-size social networks aren’t competing directly with Facebook or even with one another. Conceivably, one could be active on all of them. But then we may bump up against a new neurological limit: the maximum number of social networks that the human brain can handle.

When it comes to the mobile though, mobile-first apps will definitely be more popular.

Eldon explains:

Will Facebook or other more mature networks compete directly? So far, the market leader has messed around occasionally with list features, but has avoided creating specialized networks. Its mobile app is bloated, it doesn’t pull together social and mobile features in a way that can compete against the mobile-first apps.

Pair is predicted to extend its user base by introducing innovations. This makes it a market leader in the social networks for couples category.

Even though it doesn’t enjoy first mover advantage, Pair outshone similar apps like Kahnoodle, Duet, Tokii, and Between. Pair had a few things going for it. Firstly, it received assistance, funding and advice from a popular American seed accelerator called Y Combinator. Pair watched what other networks were doing and incorporated a few special features like ‘Thumbkiss’ that made it stand out. Lastly, Pair got a lot of interest because Morin invested in the company.

Experts have slated Pair to be acquired by technology or social networking giants in the future.

Techland Time writer, Jared Newman says:

I can see Pair as acquisition bait for Facebook, Twitter or even Path, which itself aims to be a more intimate social network. It’s not hard to imagine other companies wanting all the personal communication tools that Pair offers, not to mention the aggregate user data that the app is capable of gathering. But Pair is a strong enough idea to grow on its own–much like the relationships it aims to augment.

(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

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Rooshabh Doshi

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