When Google+ launched this week, Google also released an application for Android devices. iOS devices have to make do with the browser version for now. Is it any good?
Pitting the Android Google+ application against the iOS browser version of Google+ side-by-side to see just how well the two experiences compare reveals some surprising results.
The Google+ application, which has already been updated once, opens to a stark main page with but a few simple controls available. From this page, it is easy to jump into a user's stream, photos, profile, circles, Huddles, or check notifications.
When Google+ users navigate their iPhone to the Google+ home page, they see a similar access panel that includes all the above-mentioned options save for Huddles.
Selecting the stream in both opens up the string of posts that have most recently filtered into a user's main feed. From both the dedicated Android app and iOS Safari browser app, it is easy to add comments or +1s to friends' posts. It is also easy to check-in and compose brand new posts yourself. As far as I can tell, the features available to both platforms in the stream are identical.
Switching to the photos stream, albums and photos appear in the exact same order in both platforms. It is just as easy to access and sift through photos from the iOS browser as it is in the Android application. The Android app has one major leg-up on the iPhone, however: It allows users to shoot and upload images directly from the application. With iOS, there doesn't appear to be a way to upload images directly from the handset, at least not yet. That's a major feature missing from the iOS version of Google+ for now. This is something Google will likely fix when it debuts a dedicated iPhone app for Google+.
The other major advantage the Android app has over iOS is that it works with the Huddle. Huddle is the group messaging tool that is meant to help small groups coordinate with one another. Without it, iPhone users can't use Google+ to send messages to circles. Instead, they'll have to resort to old-fashioned text messages, emails, and (gasp) phone calls.
Both means of accessing Google+ provide users with essential tools, such as managing and interacting with circles, posts, photos, and your own profile. While making some of the adjustments from the confines of a smaller screen is awkward, at least it is possible. The full Web browser version of Google+ is far superior to the mobile versions, and offers a more full experience.
That aside, Google has done an admirable job of making the Web-based version of Google+ nearly as capable as the stand-alone Android application, with only a few features missing. Google said an iPhone app is on the way, but until then, iPhone users won't miss out on (too much of) the mobile fun.
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