Google + / Plus app for Android, review / first impressions

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Over the weekend we have started to play with Google’s new social networking service, now that we know the ins and outs of Google Plus we thought we would check out the app for Android, recently PR’s Gary Johnson told us that the iPhone app was pushing the boundaries of HTML5, now we thought we would see how the Android app shapes up.

Let’s start by telling you about requirements and where you can download Google Plus for Android. Firstly you need to have signed up to Google Plus, once you have done this ensure that you are running Android 2.1 or new and obviously have internet connectivity on your device, if you have this you can download the app over at google.com/mobile/+/. As with most Android apps the installation procedure is pretty painless and upon the app’s first run you have options to configure, from what we can see this allows the app to integrate deeply into the OS for easy sharing etc.

Once installed you will see two new apps, one of which is Google +, the other is called Huddle, we will tell you all about Huddle later on this is article, for now we will talk about the main Google + app and how it integrates into Android. Note: we are running Gingerbread on the HTC Sensation, so your user experience may vary depending on your device.

On the dual-core HTC Sensation the app opens up extremely quickly, in fact that main UI loads within a second, here you have quick access to notifications, your Google + stream, Huddles, Photos, your profile and circles. We were impressed by the clean and simple home screen and the fact that it looked great in both portrait and landscape, also you can press the menu button at any time to view terms of service, the privacy policy and help.

The menu button also allows you to send feedback and edit settings, in the version of the app we were running this allowed you to enable / disable instant upload (we tell you more about this feature later on this post) and it also lets you configure alerts to suit your needs. To be honest there are no really interesting settings to tell you about, so we will go back to the main screen and tell you about some of the apps functionality.

You will probably spend most of your time checking out the stream, this is Google +’s version of Facebook’s news feed, however it differs quite considerably. The default view shows recent Google + activity from people in your Google + circles, however if you swipe to the right you can see Google + activity from people nearby (even if you do not know them), which shows that the app and service seems to take location-based social networking to a whole new level. If you go back to your stream and swipe to the left you get to see a list titled incoming, we did not have anything showing up on this list, therefore we do not quite know what it’s all about.

Once Google + becomes more widely used we expect the stream to be populated heavily, however for now there was not a lot for us to see, one thing which we did notice was that scrolling up and down the stream was not as smooth as it could have been. You can easily +1 and comment on things which appear on the stream, also if you tap on them you get a much better view.

At the top of the home view there are four buttons you can press, the Google + button taks you back to the apps home screen, the tick button allows you to check in to nearby locations, the camera button allows you to take photos to upload to Google + or upload an existing picture to Google + and the pen button allows you to share your thoughts. Sharing your thoughts is similar to posting a status on Facebook, the Android app allows you to attach photos to your shares and even add locations, here you can also choose which circles will see what you post.

If you go back to the home screen and press photos you can see photos from your circles, your albums, your phone and even photos of yourself. It will take a while to get used to this as it is different to what we have seen before, one thing which we liked was the way that thumbnail images for folders showed a slide-show of its contents. Earlier we briefly mentioned instant upload, if this feature is enabled your Android device will automatically upload captured images to Google +, don’t worry though as they are visible only to you if you decide to share them.

By touching profile you get to see your own Google + profile, this allows you to see main three aspects of your profile. Firstly you see your own stream of the things you have shared, secondly you can see photos which you have shared and thirdly you can see a little about yourself.

Another section of the app is called Circles, this allows you to see your circles and add / remove your friends to / from different circles, you can also search for more Google + users via their name or email address.

Finally we will talk about Huddle, this feature allows you to easily talk to people in circles via instant messaging. You can easily choose entire circles to chat with or you can choose people individually, it will be interesting to see how this goes down with Google + users, as we only have a few fellow Google + users at the moment we haven’t really had a chance to test it out properly, therefore we might right a more detailed review of this particular aspect in the future.

Conclusion

Considering how early days it is for Google + and the Google + app for Android we were very impressed by the app, it will be interesting to see how things move on as the social networking service grows. In terms of integration into the OS we haven’t noticed a great deal yet, you get similar notifications to what you get from Facebook etc also it does allow you to easily share existing photos, however there is currently no video upload capability. There is also web browser integration which allows you to easily share URLs to Google +, this works in a similar way to Facebook and in testing never failed us, again you can attach photos and location data to your shares, also you can choose which circle to share links to.

Have you used the Google + app for Android? If so, are you happy with it? If not, what would you change?

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