Facebook is an incredible tool for keeping tabs on that kid from your high school who always wore the weird T-shirts with wolves on them. But as you move in towards the people you actually care about, the social media behemoth becomes significantly less useful. Consider how you communicate with your closest friends. You text, you call, you Gchat, you email; it’s likely that Facebook’s presence is nearly non-existent. The point is that different relationships demand different digital tools. And that’s why, even in a world saturated with social media, there might be a place for Avocado, an app that serves as a hub for your most intimate social network: you and your significant other.
The application, available for the iPhone, Android, and on the web, is sort of a combination of tools and services you probably already use to communicate with your special somebody. It lets you do free, iMessage-style chat, keep collaborative lists, and seamlessly share photos. These are what the Avocado team referred to as the app’s "vegetables"--the unexciting but essential communication staples that any couples software should be based on. But there’s some dessert to be found, too, like custom photo shortcuts for commonly used phrases and feelings, and the team says there are more treats on the way.
The vegetables and dessert metaphor is a handy one for understanding the two ways an app designed exclusively for couples might succeed: by making routine relationship conversation easier and by introducing new ways to communicate that are fresh and fun. Jenna Bilotta, a Google alum and one of Avocado’s co-founders, told me that the development process was relatively straightforward: the team looked at what couples already do every day and tried to find ways to make those interactions "seamless and delightful."
Services like email and SMS are designed to be flexible, versatile, and universal, and they do a fine job of connecting us with our loved ones. It’s hard to imagine that any failed relationship was one app short of working out. But Chris Wetherell, another Avocado co-founder, makes the case for a dedicated couples app in such a way that their absence heretofore seems downright absurd: "Of all the software we’ve created in the last decade, there hasn’t been any primarily designed for the most common social arrangement on the planet … There hasn’t been something in which its primary design focused on the interaction between two romantic partners." In a sense, committed relationships are a huge market segment social media has totally ignored.
The potential is such that Avocado isn’t the only app trying to make something of it. Earlier this year we looked at Pair, a slightly less utilitarian take on the idea of a couples app. Where Avocado focuses on keeping couples organized and connected, Pair specializes in clever, synchronous experiences, like letting partners doodle remotely on the same canvas. Both apps offer the requisite chat and image-sharing features, and both suffer from the notion that an app designed for lovebirds has to be cloyingly cute at every turn.
But for any couples app to truly make sense, it needs to be able to grow along with the relationship. To this end, the Avocado team is working hard to serve up one of the big remaining vegetables to users: calendar support. As they were collecting feedback from couples, Bilotta explained, the team identified three distinct phases for relationships. The first is exclusive dating, where messaging and photo sharing is most important. Then you have cohabitation, where listmaking becomes essential. "But when you move into the couples with kids stage," Bilotta says, "the calendar becomes the most important thing." That feature in particular, Wetherell says, has been "a tough nut to crack." There’s nothing cute or romantic about a week full of after-school activities that need chauffeuring.
[Image: Lovebirds via Shutterstock]