The iPhone crowd no longer has to envy Android-toting friends when it comes to using Google+. The iOS version, which launched in the App Store yesterday, is another compelling reason to give Google’s social networking service a try.
While not yet having as many capabilities as rival Facebook, Google+ does many things very well and is growing much faster than even Google anticipated. The iPhone app has a feature set virtually identical to its Android counterpart, using swipes and push notifications to give users a true iOS experience.
An area in which Google+ surpasses Facebook is in organizing one’s friends through the Circles feature. From the Circles menu tap on the name of any contacts to add or edit their circle membership. Or browse a list of individual contacts and view their status updates and photos.
When posting an update to Google+, you have very clear and easy-to-change control over who can see the content. Tap which circles it should be visible to and add a location or photo if desired. Users can also “check-in” to a venue, just as in Foursquare or Facebook.
The main hub of activity is the the Stream, which is the section that borrows the most from Facebook. While the familiarity makes for ease of use, this leads Google+ to suffer from the same problem as other social networks – information overload. However, the Stream has some excellent extra additions that make it more interesting to use on an iPhone.
For example, swipe to the right to see posts of those who are near your current location. In a large urban area this could make for some interesting electronic people-watching. Another swipe pulls up the Incoming tab, which is posts from those who are following you on Google+, but not have been added to any of your Circles.
The Huddle is an instant messaging option for contacting fellow Google+ users. When typing a name auto suggestions appear, although it looks like they are coming from the entire Google+ database as opposed to prioritizing the list with your contacts. Tightening this up would make it a more useful feature.
Some elements from the web-based version of Google+ did not make it into this iteration of the iPhone app. Missing are Sparks, which are topics of interest. Also, there is no way to change or upload a new profile picture. Google has repeatedly referred to Google+ as a “project,” with the implication that features and its mobile apps will continue to see improvements.
At times Google+ for iPhone was unresponsive and prone to some freeze-ups. It is not uncommon for a version 1.0 release (Google likes to get crazy with its version numbers, calling this 22.214.171.1249), though it does keep the experience from being completely smooth. Though given the large number of bugs and frustrating moments other users and I have experienced with Facebook on the iPhone, Google is off to a strong start.
With Google+, the search giant finally appears to have created a worthy social networking service, with a key element of this being high-quality mobile apps. Its evolution and feature improvement will be worth watching.
- Easy access to Google+
- Quickly update status and view profiles
Off the Mark:
- Missing some features
- Minor bugs