I was pretty excited, as I am for most products from our favorite Mountain View company, about Google+. While they were less than successful with Orkut, Wave, and Buzz, they promised Google+ would be better, different — and they weren’t lying. After using Google+ for a few days, I can honestly say it’s becoming my favorite social network. One of the reasons for this is a rock-solid Android app, which makes using Google+ on the go an incredibly enjoyable experience.
The first thing you’ll notice when booting up the app is that it has an incredibly clean interface, much like its browser-based counterpart. There are five buttons, plus the Notifications area, and each section is packed with features to give you a full Google+ experience. Let’s take a look at them.
The Stream interface is nice and intuitive. You’ve got three views to choose from, and can swipe left or right to switch between them.
The first view is “Circles”; this displays a post from anyone in any one of your Circles, much like the browser version’s default Stream view. There is also “Incoming”, which (just like the browser version’s) shows posts from people that are not in your Circles, but who have added you to theirs. Finally, there is a “Nearby” view, unique to the Android app. This view will take your location, and get posts from other people in your area.
From any of these views, pressing a post will bring you to the single post view, where you can +1, comment on, mute, or report it. On your own posts, you can also delete it and moderate the comments.
Stream and Single Post
It’s also from the Stream area that you’ll add new posts. The three icons at the top of the screen (in order) allow you to check-in to your location, post a photo, or post a standard update (text). Selecting a standard update will allow you to attach a location or photo. You’ll also be able to choose who you want to share the update with.
Post and Check-In
As you can see, location and photos (either from the camera or from your gallery) are right on the post screen. When you attach a photo, it automatically gets added to your “Photos from Phone” gallery, but others cannot see it until you share it. Speaking of which…
The Google+ Android app also lets you view photos from your photo gallery, as well as photos shared by your Circles. Pressing the Photos icon will take you to the photos screen, which lists four photo galleries: “From your circles”, “Photos of you”, “Your albums”, and “From your phone”. You also have the ability to share a photo from this screen by pressing the camera icon.
While the galleries are pretty self-explanatory, I would like to mention the gallery, “From your phone,” which nicely organizes all of the photos on your phone by date taken. You can opt to have every photo you take automatically uploaded to Google+ (but not automatically shared) so that you can post them later.
You can also share photos by using Android’s system wide “Share” button.
Selecting one of the galleries will then allow you to view individual photos. The individual photo view is quite nice. You see the photo, who’s it is, and the comments. On your own photos, you also have the ability (just as on posts) to delete the photo and moderate comments. There is also facial recognition on the photos, which is a nice touch. As far as I can tell, this is only available on the Android app. Finally, you can swipe left or right to view other photos.
One complaint I had about the stream was the inability to filter it by Circle. Well it turns out you can do just that on the Circles screen. Pressing the Circles icon will bring you to a list of all of your Circles as well as an option to view all of the people you follow.
Circles and Profiles
Pressing one of your Circles will take you to a list of all the people in that Circle, as well as a way to view posts and photos only from that Circle. Pressing on one of the people will bring up their profile, as well as their posts and photos. One of the really nice features of the profile view is it looks like it integrates with your phone book, so the person’s contact information is right in front of you. You can easily call, text, or email right from Google+.
You can also view a list of suggestions and search people by name or email. From the main Circles screen, go to the People screen and choose “View suggested people”. You can add people by pressing the icon in the top right of the same screen.
Huddles are a feature unique to the Google+ Android app. They are a way to start conversations with a specific Circle or groups of people — similar to the browser version’s Hangouts, albeit without video support.
Create and View Huddle
To create a Huddle, just press the Huddle icon from the main screen, then press the icon in the top right. You’ll be brought to a screen where you can select people (by name or email) or Circles. You then send a message out to whoever is included in the Huddle. People who are not on Google+ will get an email notification to join the Huddle.
It appears that, at the moment, only Gmail addresses are supported.
In the Huddle itself, you’ll see a list of the participants, and, of course, any messages. Using the icon in the top right of an individual Huddle, you can add people. You do not need to be the creator of the Huddle to add people.
My only complaint with the entire app is that it seems you can only leave Huddles that you’ve created. There doesn’t seem to be a way to clear all of the Huddles from your list. This is a bit irksome to me.
Notifications and Settings
The Notifications are cleanly integrated and accessible on the main screen for Google+. You’ll see a count of how many new notifications you have, with the new ones being in bold. Pressing a notification will bring you to that post. You can get status bar alerts through the settings.
Notifications and Settings
While most of the time, you’ll see the settings above, Photos and Huddle have their own specific settings, accessible by pressing the Menu button on your phone.
Through the Settings, you can choose to get alerts for notifications as well as Huddles, and you can configure your upload settings for photos.
I did want to mention that you can also access your profile from the main screen, but you cannot modify it, just view your info, posts, and photos.
All in all, Google did a fantastic job with this app. It’s clean, easy to use, and super functional. Of all the social network mobile apps, I’d say Google+ is the best port, feature- and function-wise. While I wish you could remove any Huddle from your list of Huddles, this app is excellent, especially for a first release.