Social networking online is very popular among users all around the world. Interestingly, people prefer to use Facebook, Google+ or Twitter on mobile devices instead of their computers. It’s the most efficient way to keep in touch with people anywhere in the world, whether you are catching a cab or just walking down the street. But all of that is for smartphones — what about tablets? There are many ways to access Facebook or Twitter on an iPad, but up until this month, Google+ has been left out of the picture.
This year at its I/O conference, Google announced that it would be releasing a tablet-optimized app for iOS and Android with the former coming “soon.” On July 10, the company updated its existing iOS app to be universal with Hangouts on all devices and Retina display support on the new iPad. I’ve been using Google+ for a bit and decided to give it a full review. Keep reading for my thoughts on the app.
Browsing, Posting, and Commenting
If you’re a basic user, then you’re probably just going to use the main features in Google+, like browsing commenting and posting status updates. Navigating the menus and leaving comments is very easy, and I found it to be as user friendly as any other social networking app out there. Google did a good job of bringing the desktop experience to a tablet and it works far better than the old mobile web version did. I like the landscape orientation for browsing because scrolling sideways seems more sensible, even if users are a bit confused at first.
Nice little features you may not know about include comment reporting for spammers, the option to embed your current location within a status update, a way to switch from all circles to “What’s Hot” and others, pinch-to-open functionality on photos that are in your stream, and a lot of other fun stuff like that. One really interesting feature that I discovered by mistake allows you to grab a post with two fingers, pinch a little, and drag it to a re-share button on the right side of the screen. You can then post your thoughts on it. Even though you may not use it that often, I found it nifty.
One of the most used features of Google+ is Hangouts since it allows you to have a large group chat for free, unlike Skype. I’ve always found it useful for those times I need to make a video conference call with some friends, but there wasn’t any way to do it on the road. Well, until now, that is. You can now initiate a Hangout right from your iOS device and easily talk to whomever you wish within seconds – providing that they’re online, of course. I had no problems talking with friends and it worked just as the desktop version does.
My big question is, why doesn’t Google include Google Talk or some sort of messenger in the iPad version of its Plus app? How am I supposed to chat with my friends?
Flicking Through Photos
There are a lot of well-known photographers who use Google+ to share their work daily. For this reason, Google has worked hard to make sure that photos are displayed beautifully in the Plus app for iPad. To me, this seems to be the most polished section of the whole app, from the way it lets you comment on things to the general browsing functionality. All photos are displayed at a high-resolution so they look perfect on the new iPad’s Retina display.
You can open a photo in the largest resolution possible by tapping it again once you’ve opened it. If you want to, you can even download it by taking a screenshot while in fullscreen.
The essential functionality in Google+’s photo exploration is great, but there are little things that you’ll miss. Comments on a photo, for instance, appear to be in short supply if you just look at the small pane Google has dedicated to this function. However, if you swipe up as if you were to scroll down a page in Safari, the full list will appear. The scrolling is wonderfully smooth and I haven’t experienced a single issue with it, even on photos that have a few hundred comments. It’s a unique way of displaying comments in a tape-like manner. I’ve never seen anything like it in an iPad app and love the concept.
Google Spent Time Designing This App
Back in April, Google redesigned the web version of Google+ and I didn’t like it. I thought things got too cluttered with the redesign and it seemed as if they were adding unnecessary bulk to menus. Basic functions like scrolling lagged in all the browsers on my Mac and the whole website seemed unusable. But with the iPad app, things are far better. I’ve been able to browse smoothly, for the most part, and use the whole app without any major problems.
I really like the layout Google has chosen for its iPad Plus app. In my opinion, it’s a better way to browse a social network than what I’ve found in web versions. It’s user-friendly and doesn’t take long to get used to. I like to see something that anyone can pick up and start using. This is that kind of app and there should be a lot more like it. Twitter took the right initial approach in its tablet venture, but neglected to update the app, leaving bugs and a lack of newer features that the iPhone version has. I hope Google keeps its app updated with the most recent Plus additions.
There are some really slick transitions when you scroll through posts. To load new ones, Google has included a beautiful drop-in animation that drops the post into your feed. It’s hard to explain and you’ll have to try it out for yourself to get an idea of how great it is, but I really like how Google included a lot of this sort of thing throughout the app. Smooth transitions with different animations that you don’t see in apps very often make Google+ unique. Sadly, things do start to lag a bit when the posts drop in. Hopefully Google will give it some Project Butter treatment, if possible.
Coding a mostly smooth app is one thing and design is another, yet Google somehow managed to keep everything polished in both areas. Minimal is, even when despised, Google’s style. The designers enjoy keeping things as simple as possible and even though the web version contradicts this, this new iPad app is far closer to the standard. There’s little clutter and an all-inclusive beautiful user interface. I’ve not been able to find one thing wrong with it.
There’s really no better way to browse Google+ on an iPad. Even if you hate this app, it’s still going to be the best one available for Apple’s tablet. If you’re a steady visitor at Google+, I can find no reason not to use this app on your iPad. The developers have actually spent some quality time making sure things work well and it would seem that their iOS developing skills are improving significantly from older projects like Google Voice for the iPhone. They’ve shown that they can create an app with a more fluid experience and that’s a good thing to see.
Honestly, I wish Facebook would learn a lesson from what Google has done here. They didn’t take the mobile web version and repackage it a bit to make an iPad app. Instead, they created an app that accessed the website in a slightly different way than users are used to. In this case, Google does social networking better than Facebook — and that’s not a statement to be taken lightly.
Stay connected and share life as it happens with Google+ for iPhone and iPad. Join a Hangout, post a photo, or see what friends are sharing while you’re on the go.10