Co.Design

Pair: A Social Networking App Just For Couples

A new social network that’s just for couples sounds like an oxymoron. It’s not.

Any established couple has their own language. It’s built upon countless hours of shared experience--meals, parties, and encounters with strange people--and ultimately becomes a vast network of allusions that only one other person in existence can grasp.

You can’t speak in that language with anyone else. Relationship memes don’t make it outside a sphere of two. And so, you can’t talk to your spouse with most modern social tools--like Facebook--because even if you were willing to be open in front of onlookers, they’d never understand what you were really saying.

Pair is an iOS-based social network for just two people. Yes, that’s a bit of an oxymoron. Yes, it could be developed into an SNL sketch (though maybe a social network for one person would work better). The best way to describe the app is like Path, but only for two people, or maybe SMS with a lot more media involved.

“When we first moved to Mountain View, we found ourselves very disconnected from our significant others back home,” Oleg Kostour, one of Pair’s five creators, tells 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.”

So Pair consolidates all of these functions, and the app purposely limits their reach. You can share thoughts, photos, video, sketches, and your location in an ongoing timeline, plus you can do a few obnoxious couple-style things like draw together or even *groan* thumbkiss by lining up your fingerprints on each of your screens. When they touch, the phone vibrates.

But all of this potential cheese is okay, as it’s an app constructed from the ground up specifically to accommodate those sappy, insider-only moments of your relationship. Pair is streamlined to bring out more of those interactions in your relationship, even when you and your better half aren’t together in person.

“By having an app only associated with one other person, you no longer have to go through your contact list or multiple apps to share things with the person you speak to most often,” Kostour writes. “Being able to see when your partner is online makes your conversation feel more real time, and it makes it easier to catch each other to Facetime (which you can activate from within Pair).”

Of course, Pair’s design strength may also be its Achilles’ heel. Privacy is the number one concern in social networks today, and Pair is built around the premise of, not just sharing 140-character jokes, but of letting your guard down. Sure, you can only connect to one other person, but what you say and photograph is out there, on the servers for a new company using a model that’s yet to be monetized. And I was never shown a privacy policy when signing up. (I did inquire about their policies but have not yet heard back on that point.) UPDATE: you can find the privacy policy here. Kostour assures me that "no one can view the accounts and we don’t retain ownership." After studying the privacy policy for myself, I’m not sure this is spelled out as clearly as it could be.

Knowing that Pair is still small actually makes me a lot less likely to use it earnestly. I feel like I’m at a table for two at a quiet cafe--a very quiet cafe. It seems intimate, until I realize that my personal conversation is filling the room as a spectacle to the wait staff.

All of that said, Pair is a well-built piece of software. And its premise is clever. By removing everyone on the globe that technology enables us to talk to, only the most important person in the world is left.

Download it here.

[Image: Pichugin Dmitry/Shutterstock]

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