A few days ago Google introduced a slew of products that fall under its social umbrella, the Google+ project: a social networking hub, group video chat, group messaging and news discovery platform. The has since been a lot of Buzz (sorry, it was inevitable) concerning Google’s entrance into the social networking scene, what they mean for prime competitors such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, and how these efforts will evolve in the coming months… but how about what Google+ means for Android?
Google+: A Briefing
The more I use Google+ the more I love it. It reminds me of the early days of Twitter as most of the conversation is started and commented on by geeky individuals (thanks to the invitation fiasco/blessing). At first I found Plus to be barren and lonely as my handful of friends with invites posted only occasionally, and mostly about Plus being a ghost town. A re-post (basically a ReTweet) by Robert Scoble then caught my attention, as it highlighted a handful of “must follow” individuals, which immediately made Plus click in my mind — although I only had a dozen or so mutual friends in the network, Plus has an asynchronous following feature like that of Twitter! Instantly I followed early adopters, pundits and Googlers to populate my stream and engage in conversation with.
Tilek Mamutov made a nifty list of popular Google+ users
Adding power users did flood the stream quite a bit (you know what I mean if you follow Robert Scoble on Twitter) and I felt as if my real friends were being pushed aside. Enter: Circles.
Circles are the killer feature of the Google+ platform. The best analogy I could think of when considering the stream and managing it with Circles was that the Google+ stream is like a Twizzler Pull-n-Peel. You could read the stream like the firehose Twitter and Facebook were, or, you can select specific feeds to read, pulling them from the firehose/Twizzler to enjoy.
Other features — such as Hangout, the group video chat, are awesome as well, and the (mobile only) group messaging client Huddle — will eventually become useful once they are open to the public. The mobile application is nicely designed and functions well (although the notifications could use some work) and we will have a full review shortly.
So, What Does the Google+ Release Mean for Android?
Firstly, there is a massive focus on mobile within this first wave of releases, primarily Huddle and Instant Upload. Huddle is a group messaging application much like GroupMe or Beluga. Given its functionality it is a clear shot at Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and the recently-announced iMessage on iOS. The trouble I see with Huddle is where it stands with relation to Google Talk and Google Voice, the definition of fragmentation. Huddle brings the novelty of little icons showing a message being sent, received and read by the recipient, which other Google messaging applications lack, but remains a mobile-only feature.
Instant Upload is a feature built into the Google+ experience that instantly uploads every image taken by the mobile camera to Picasa (the cloud) and makes them readily available to share with friends. I find this to be one of the most fascinating aspects of Google+ as a usability shift is occurring: getting data to the cloud has changed from a push to a pull, providing great peace of mind and simplicity to content that many Android users had felt was trapped on their devices unless they manually uploaded photos to Picasa or a service like Dropbox.
Dan Morrill, one of the early members of the Android team, posted earlier this morning on Google+ that all the analysis made today means very little to a platform that will continue to evolve as it grows.
… I know that the only thing that actually matters — and indeed if you think about it, the only thing that actually can matter — is the dedication and execution of the team. And right now, it’s damned hard to argue with their hustle. – Dan Morrill
Dan has a point, Google+ is a very young project and will continue to see updates and new features in the future. I also agree that the field test and limiting users, even though that limits the accessibility, will yield rapid responses and improvements to the young platform.
So, ignoring the focus on how Google+ will be changing the world and destroying empires, what do you think Google+ means for Android? Sound off in the comments below!