Features & Use
Path (not to be confused with the NJ/NY subway of the same name) has become a fairly familiar name among iPhone users and has finally made the transition over to Android. According to the app description and the developer’s website, Path combines photography with social networking using both the app and website. Although the idea is anything but new, Path isn’t an amateur piece of work judging from the screenshots of its Apple app.
To get things started, Path forces you to set up an account with them like any social networking site. Thankfully, Path is perfectly synched with Facebook so the sign up process is quick and painless. There’s one thing that makes you raise your eyebrows: Path requires you to create a new password and provide them with a phone number. No explanation is given for this odd requirement. Moreover, users don’t even get to see a terms & services section to see how this information could be used. If I hadn’t known that Path was a legitimate program, I would’ve never agreed to give those people my phone number. But, hey, app reviewers have to take some risks for the good of the general public, right?
Instead of creating an alternative social network for you, Path uses your existing Facebook account. So be prepared to give Path permission to use virtually all your Facebook data. A bit worrying, but necessary for you to enjoy Path.
As far as the app’s concept is concerned, Path markets itself as a more personal social network where you can share your “special moments” with a select group of VIP friends and family. And by special moments I mean: photos, photos and photos. What makes the whole thing unique is that you can create a virtual scrapbook or timeline of your daily life made up uniquely of photographs taken with your Android. You can handpick a number of your closest people to have access to your daily photo collage. With every photo taken you can tag people, places and – surprisingly – things. By default you can select people from your list of Facebook friends and the app automatically suggests location-based tags, which are quite limited due to the small number of users.
By selecting a person, place and activity Path automatically forms a complete sentence in English. An example would be “With Peter in New York Eating Pizza”, but you can create new and interesting tags. Then you can choose whether you’d like to share your picture with just yourself, your closest Path followers or your entire pool of Facebook friends. After clicking done your photo is instantly uploaded to the Path server and added to your personal path (a euphemism for news feed).
People that are part “on your Path” can respond to pictures with smiley faces and hearts, but cannot comment on them. If you allow Path to post everything to Facebook than people will obviously have the ability to comment and “like” them. Last but not least, Path also includes its own chat service that is minimal and I can’t see anyone in their right mind using.
Bottom Line: The app comes across as extremely suspicious in terms of security and privacy due to the fact that you have to give Path the keys to your Facebook account. Obviously, you can take away some of the permissions after the fact in your Facebook settings, but it’s still unnerving. Although the app appears to be completely pointless at first, there is a certain beauty and intimacy about seeing your entire life in terms of pictures with short concise captions. Path lets you document your life in small photographic fragments without any excess baggage. The problem then is to convince your good friends to get “on the Path” with you (it sounds terribly new agey, I know). Another issue is the fact that you can only use your camera’s stock camera app to capture those intimate and unique moments – not the best way to take beautiful pictures. Fortunately, you can also use the Path web client to upload photos from your computer taken by better quality cameras.
Screen & Controls
After you’ve created an account, Path is made up of just two screens: your personal scrapbook-like “path” and all of your friend’s paths. Compared to the iOS version of the app, that’s a significant downgrade. The iPhone version which includes more buttons like: Today, Explore, People and Me. What’s the reason for omitting them in the Android version? Go figure. Generally speaking the layout is very minimal and bland, but the picture time line made up of rectangular previews of your photos with captions is beautiful and tasteful. The web version of Path looks especially dazzling, modern and hip. Otherwise, there are basically no real buttons to speak of. Everything can be done with just one click and each picture can be expanded to full-size by simply clicking on it.
Speed & Stability
I had some minor speed issues with the app regarding the picture-taking and uploading process. Path tended to stall and lag a bit every time I shot a frame or clicked Done to upload to the Path service.
Path can be downloaded for free from the Android Market.