Jul 6, 2011
Google’s latest attempt at a social network may just be the real deal this time. Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook, allowing for users to post and share with their friends, acquaintances and other people. The strength of Google+ is its “Circles” feature, allowing for users to share their posts with only those they want to share with, so some posts can be shared only with friends, and others only with work colleagues, and et cetera. The service is still in a “Field Test” with limited signups, but the app is now available for Android; iOS users have to use the mobile web interface.
The app offers a simple view of the latest posts in a feed, with the ability to open up a post to comment on it or “+1” it, which is similar to favoriting a tweet or “Liking” a post on Facebook. The app provides notifications, though they seem to come in at random sporadic intervals, not always live; email notifications seem to be on a similar delay, so the service isn’t quite up to speed yet. The app also allows for the viewing of nearby posts, and check-ins to locations are possible as well. The photos view allows for quick browsing of all recent photo uploads from people in circles. Along with those features, the app has some other elements to it, both good and bad:
Instant Upload: This feature allows for any photo or video that is taken to be uploaded to a private album on Google+ automatically. Take pictures at a party and want to put them on Google+, but don’t want to go through the hassle of actually uploading them? Just enable Instant Upload, and then when on Google+, just choose to insert a picture “From your phone” and then photos can be easily added to posts from the web. These only apply to media taken from the camera, so saved images and screenshots won’t all be uploaded. As well, there are options for only uploading certain media on certain network connections, for those wishing to only upload videos on wifi, for example.
Tagging: Mobile tagging of people seems to be, frankly, broken. On the web, it’s easy to tag people by their name. On mobile, it tags by email address, even when selecting someone’s name. This is also even if they are on Google+! It’s slightly ridiculous, and something that the app really needs to fix.
Sharing: Want to share a link or video through Android’s built-in sharing services? Well, only a text link is offered, there’s no way to attach it to a post like on the web.
Hangouts and Huddles: While Google+’s innovative Hangouts video chat feature is not available on mobile yet, the app does offer “Huddles,” which can be used for spontaneous chats with other Google+ users that can be pushed to their device and/or email. This may be a different feature from just Google Talk on the web, as the web version of Google+ doesn’t mention Huddles at all.
Google+ is rumored to be launching publicly by the end of the month, and the service should be a real contender to Facebook and Twitter, or at least provide Google with a lot of social data of their own to crawl and use to make more money for them. For those lucky enough to get in to the Field Test, Google+ is available from the Android Market for free.