Google+ for Android Review

by Reads (10,225)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of days, you’ve probably heard about Google+, the new social networking initiative from this software giant. It just launched, but there’s already an Android app available for the service. Is it worth your while to install?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of days, you’ve probably heard about Google+, the new social networking initiative from this software giant. It just launched, but there’s already an Android app available for the service. Is it worth your while to install?

GETTING STARTED

Google+ Android AppWhen you install the Google+ app from the Android Market, you’ll see that two icons have been added to your app launcher. The first is Google+, while the other is actually a shortcut to the Huddle portion of the app (more about that later on in this article).

When you first start the Google+ app, you’re asked to select the Google account you want to use for the service. If you only have one, just tap on it and the app will start. You are then asked if you want to enable ‘Instant Upload’. This feature automatically uploads all of the photos you take and the videos you make with your smartphone to a private album on Google+. You can then choose which ones you want to share from either your phone or on a desktop computer. The feature also comes with a warning that it will use your data connection, so true photo bugs might not want to use Instant Upload unless they’ve got a hefty data plan.

IN USE

The main screen of Google+ has five different areas: Stream, Huddle, Photos, Profile, and Circles.

Google+ Android App: StreamStream
Stream is similar to a Facebook news feed where you’ll see all of your status updates, links, photos, videos, and everything else shared with you by your friends. The quick access bar at the top has three icons that allow you to check in, post a photo (existing or from an album), or write a status update. You can also add your location if you wish.

Next you choose the individual people or the circles you want to share the post with–everyone, extended circles, or one or more of your personal circles. It may sound complicated, but the app is well organized and makes all of this quite simple to do, with just a couple of taps.

Google+ Android App: StreamAnd it’s this ability that really sets Google+ apart from it’s chief rival, Facebook. With Circles, you can post an image from the party you went to last night to your friends but not your parents or your co-workers. That’s an idea Facebook has yet to wake up to.

New posts shared by your friends and colleagues will appear at the top of the screen. Tap on a post to be taken to a new screen that includes the post and all of the comments relating to it. Tap on the bottom of the screen and start typing to add your own comment. Or use the handy buttons at the top to add your +1 (which is exactly like Facebook’s “like” feature), mute the post (so you will no longer receive notifications if other people add their own comments after you make one), or report abuse.

Huddle
Huddle is group chat, and can potentially take the place of your phone’s built-in messaging app if all of your friends and colleagues are using Google+. At first glance it looks just like a plain old text messaging app, but Huddle is much more than that. It has the standard push notifications that you would expect from a text messaging app, but it allows you to send messages up to fifty people at once, by name or by circle. You can even add more folks to the huddle in midstream if you like, and Google+ helpfully warns you that they will be able to see the entire conversation history for that particular Huddle once they accept the invitation and join.

To start, you just choose a circle and type a message to send it. Then you’re taken to what looks like a standard text messaging screen, with a few additions. At the top of the Huddle screen you’ll see a row of Google profile photos, so you can easily see who has been invited to the conversation and who is actually participating. As messages come in, they appear at the bottom of the screen. Press the menu button on your phone to edit the name of the huddle, mute it (to stop receiving notifications), or leave.

You can also jump from other areas of the app into the huddle at any time, just tap on a notification when one pops up to let you know that someone has added something to the huddle conversation. But please note that the Huddle feature is only available on the Android app, not on the desktop version. You can do something similar there, using Google Chat with your circles, but it’s not quite the same, and you can’t jump back and forth between the two if you happen to be sitting at your desk and would rather use a real keyboard instead of tapping something out on your phone.

Photos
Photos is obviously where you can see all of your photos. The screen is broken down into four areas. The first is photos that have been shared by the people in your circles; the second is photos of yourself. Next is your personal albums, which in my case, is made up of my profile pictures and an album of vacation photos I uploaded to Picasa a couple of years ago. The last is photos taken from your phone. If you’ve enabled the instant upload feature, they should appear within just a few seconds; you can select up to eight at one time to share with others.

Here and elsewhere within Google+, I have to highlight the very nicely done photo layout and interface. Tapping on a photo removes the caption overlay, and you can zoom in if you like. Tap in the box at the bottom of any photo to comment on it; when you’re in thumbnail view you can see how many comments each photo has. Slide left or right to move through the photo stream; switching between photos is smooth and very fast.

Profile
You enter a description of yourself into your Profile. It similar to what you’re likely familiar with from other social-networking services: an image of yourself (or an icon if you prefer) where you’ve worked, what school you went to, that sort of thing.

Circles
The final entry is Circles. This part of the app has two main divisions. The Circles tab lists all of your circles; tapping on any one of them takes you to a screen with three tabs at the bottom for People, Posts, and Photos. The People tab lists all of the people you’ve added to a particular circle; the Posts tab filters your stream by that circle so you get more targeted posts, and the Photos tab allows you to browse through all of the photos shared by the people in that particular circle.

The other half of the Circles category is People, and that’s where you’ll see a list of all of the people already in your circles, along with a list of which circles each one is in. Tap on a person’s name to see their Google Profile, the posts they’ve made, and the photos they’ve shared. It reminds me of the enhanced contact view on HTC devices, if you’re familiar with HTC Sense.

CONCLUSION

Overall, the Google+ Android app is clean, streamlined, and extremely easy to use. It puts all of Google’s new social network at your fingertips, except that Huddle messaging replaces the Hangout video chat feature found on the desktop. In some ways it’s even easier to navigate and use than the desktop application, since each area is so focused and you don’t have multiple columns cluttering up the view.

If you’re already using Google+ and you have an Android phone, you simply must install this free app and give it a try. It blows away the browser-based app that iPhone and iPad users are stuck with at the moment, and isn’t it good for them to be jealous for a change?

 


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