Google+ Official Android App, Our In-depth Review
Jul 27, 2011 7:41 AM –
Google+ is the Android interface for Google’s new social network, ‘Google+’. Endeavoring to include as much as the web experience as possible, the app has lots of features including automatic picture uploads and ‘Huddle’- a group chat messaging function. Google+ is in beta stage and, as perhaps should be expected, some issues also exist on the mobile app. This said, the Google+ app is smooth, easy to use and understand and a great means to access Google+ on the go. I get the impression Google recognize a service needs to have a mobile platform to thrive (probably learnt from not bothering to release a Google Wave app), so you could argue this is essential to the social networks growth. Now also released on the iPhone, the Google+ app is a vital component in the growth and potential of the new social network.
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Tested on: HTC Desire HD
Pros & Cons:
- Easy to use.
- Bright, intuitive interface.
- Fast, responsive transitions between screens.
- Auto photo upload feature.
- Huddle group messaging.
- Photo viewer.
- Privacy features.
- Minor navigation issues.
- Unable to +1 comments, only posts.
- Lacks Sparks.
- Lacks Hangout feature.
So, Google+. If you haven’t heard of it you have probably living in a very isolated and sound-proof cave, as Google+ is the fastest growing social network on web… like, ever. Launched on the 28th June 2011, the network reached 10 million users within 2 weeks and all while it was still in limited trial phase. Incidentally Twitter and Facebook took 780 and 852 days respectively to reach the same user figures. Likened to these other big players in many respects, Google+ has certainly caught the imagination of users and has generally received a positive response. At launch Google were keen to provide integration for their Android mobile platform and hence the Google+ app was released more or less at the same time. However, while Google+ is in field test phase so too (arguably) is the Google+ app. There are some great features, but it does need some refinement.
The app is incredibly easy to use and simply laid out. You initially have a screen with the options: Stream, Huddle, Photos, Profile and Circles. Now, I have to say I’m going to have to assume that the Google+ service and these phrases, not part of our consciousness a month ago, are now familiar to you. Strangely, when you download Google+ onto your Android you also get a separate Huddle app (in the same way you get Navigation and Places when you download Google Maps). While this isn’t a problem, you can easily access the Huddle feature in the main app itself, so it was odd to see a separate app listed.
‘Stream’ is where most of the action takes place and you see the flow of messages and posts from the individuals you follow. The app gives you a clear view of the posts, in addition to the comments made on them. Photos can be clicked on and expanded, videos quickly link to YouTube and everything feels smooth and intuitive. A major interactive feature of Google+ is the ability to “+1” posts you approve of (similar to ‘Like’ on Facebook). You can subsequently ‘+1’ comments people make on that post, however the Google+ app falls short here and you are currently unable to perform this in-app.
You can swipe in either direction to view different Circles (see below) and you can also view a ‘Nearby’ stream to see who is publicly posting locally to you.
Obviously the app lets you post messages, pictures, links and videos to your own timeline and this is easy to do. You can also comment and +1 on other peoples posts. Perhaps a nod to the way you can tag friends on Facebook and Twitter by using the ‘@’ sign, you can do the same with Google+ by using the ‘+’ sign. However, this feature is buggy in Google+ in that by pressing ‘+’ you are presented with a list directly from your phones contact list rather than your Google+ followers. I found this a bit annoying, but I’m guessing this kind of blip will be rectified in a future update.
Huddle is group chat feature where you can converse and interact with fellow Google+ users. Very much like group text messaging, you can receive notifications for messages you are sent. Features like this work very much like other Android apps such as IM+, but integrated into the Google+ environment. Using Huddle is a piece of cake and will be immediately familiar to the majority of users.
As you would expect, Photos gives you access to the variety of photos those who you follow have posted. Split into 4: From your circles, Photos of you, Your albums and From your phone. These provide you with the ability to view and edit your own pictures, view the pictures of those you follow, add comments and +1’s, in addition to editing comments on your own pictures. A feature I have found useful is the Instant Upload feature for photographs. If activated it will upload all the pictures you take on your phone to a completely private web album. This makes it easier to post said photos to your stream, and saves you from uploading these separately later. I imagine this feature might freak some amateur photographers out, knowing the pics you take are instantly uploaded to the Internet, but you can turn this feature off if you perhaps like to take the kind of pictures you do not want anywhere near the Internet.
Here you can access your own profile, and are able to look at your own ‘About’ section as well as your posts and photos. As yet you cannot edit your details in the mobile application. This perspective is actually identical to when you view the profiles of other users. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the functionality in this section is expanded upon to include editing and maybe more as Google+ grows.
Finally, Circles lets you view a list of your created circles, and by tapping on these you can see the individual Circle streams for those you follow. Maybe (like me) you have a family Circle and you want to check if they’ve bothered to post anything yet. Maybe you want to look just at those in your work Circle to see what they have posted something important. Obviously using Circles allow you to specify what users you want to see, so this feature is well mirrored into the mobile Google+ application. These Circles can also be added as headings in the Stream section, and you can simply scroll across to view each Circle’s posts. This is actually, in my opinion, a better way of viewing Circles. It reminded me hugely of the way the Tweetdeck allows you to swipe through your twitter groups, so might be familiar to many.
One feature that is missing from the Android app is ‘Sparks’. Another phrase which meant little to us a month ago, Sparks on the Google+ website provides links and stories dependent on your interests. Search for ‘Android’ and you get a list of Android stories, search for ‘fish breeding’ and you get a variety of aquatic breeding links. While Google+ does not yet link to Google Reader, the Sparks feature is currently missing from the Google+ Android experience, which is a shame.
Furthermore, the Android app doesn’t have Hangouts. Hangouts are where up to 10 users can webcam chat simultaneously. Now although such an experience might be very limited on a some mobile devices, I’m sure a number of users with front-facing cameras might bemoan this missing feature. Whether this will be integrated into a future update I’m unsure- I think this might depend on demand as the service grows.
Watch on Mobile
GooglePlus – Main Menu
GooglePlus – Profile view
GooglePlus – Stream view
GooglePlus – Stream view 2
GooglePlus – Post view
GooglePlus – Post entry view
GooglePlus – Circle members view
GooglePlus – Specific Circle stream view
GooglePlus – Photo post editing view
For users of the social network, this is an essential application. It allows you to perform most of the normal actions you can on the website. While absolutely essential for Google+ users I still think the app lacks quite a bit. Not being able to edit your profile on the go is a bit limiting and some of the navigational elements of the app aren’t intuitive. For example, when you click someone’s name in a thread, it doesn’t take you to their profile, instead you have to click their picture. While this is clearly a conditioned expectation based on using other social networks, it’s a niggle I’m sure others will notice too.
Ease of Use:
The app, as it is, is easy to use and generally straightforward. Aspects of the application are easy to navigate and you never really feel lost. There are the little niggles I have mentioned, such as what happens when you want to tag someone on a post, but this aside I encountered only a very few problems. Such issues I’m certain will be ironed out as time goes on. Google have already published a host of future developments for the service, so we can only assume the Google+ app will be developed alongside this.
This will depend heavily on how much you use the Google+ service. Personally, I’m using the Google+ app several times a day. I am nothing if not dedicated.
The interface is generally smooth and works nicely. Transitions through the screens is fast, and linking to the YouTube application when watching videos is seamless and natural feeling. There are the occasional blips and drags but this is very rare. You can only assume this will be even better as the service and app improves.