Google+ App Makes Social Networking Add Up [Review]


My hangouts never look like this
My hangouts never look like this

The general reaction to Google’s release of its new Google+ app has been very positive. Lots of people have been saying how good it looks and how nice it is to use.

Yes, it is pretty. Pretty enough to give Google+ the usage boost it seeks? Now that’s a very different question.

One thing the Google+ app does not resemble is the desktop version of G+ that you see in a web browser. It looks, and feels, totally different. It doesn’t even look much like most iOS apps; the feel is very much a blend of elements from iOS, Android and even a touch of Windows Metro.

All the aspects of G+ you’re used to are there. They’re easy to navigate, using a simple “front page” metaphor that acts as a central hub, linking you to all the other features. It’s fast, it has a slickness to it that we’ve not seen from Google’s iOS apps before. (I’d be willing to bet that a similarly-styled Gmail app can’t be far away, and assuming it keeps Gmail and G+ suitably separated, it will be a huge hit.)

But what sort of app does G+ want to be? It wants to be a bit of everything. It’s a personal sharing space – like blogging used to be back in the old days – where you can post what you’re thinking, feeling or doing, and what all your friends are doing too. But it’s also a communicating space. So is Facebook, but I think there’s more emphasis on the communicating aspect inside G+.

The photo sharing is particularly good, but be warned: with Instant Upload activated, the G+ app will automatically upload every photo you save to your Camera Roll. By default, these photos are saved to a private album, and you can make them public later if you wish. Might want to be careful with that feature.

You don’t need to spend long inside this new app to find yourself seeing your lists of circles, or people in your circles. In either case, it feels like you’re browsing your iOS contacts list. Google is very keen for people to use G+ as an alternative means of communication to the others you already have on your phone. Including iMessage.

The problem remains that G+, despite growing incredibly fast in terms of numbers of users, remains too quiet. There’s simply not enough going on to keep people coming back. Google had to make an incredible iOS app, because only by releasing something really impressive can they hope to pull more people into their world of Circles. And like Facebook, they need more people doing more stuff, because that’s how they reach the advertising heaven that Facebook has found.

This world of Big Social Media is a clear two-way transaction. The providers (Google, Facebook), give you amazing ways of sharing and staying in touch with loved ones. And you give them access to who you know, what you do, and where you do it. They use that data to make money. And as long as you’re happy with that transaction, this app is worth installing.

Pro: Very impressive social networking UI.

Con: Beware automatic photo uploading.