Before today, iPad users had two options for using Google+ on their tablet, neither of which was rewarding. The first involved using the iPhone app, which was a scaled-up, pixelated mess that could work only in portrait orientation. The second was using a mobile-optimized version of Google+ in the Safari browser, which lacked functionality and offered a half-complete experience at best.
The dedicated application is a major improvement in the overall Google+ experience, though it is by no means perfect. Here are some first impressions of the new social networking app.
[ Is Apple really planning to offer a 7-inch iPad, or are the rumors based on Google Nexus 7 angst? Read iPad Mini Rumors Are Anti-Nexus 7 FUD. ]
The app functions similarly to the iPhone application. There are controls that allow users to access the various facets of the social network, including their own stream, profile, circles, and account settings. Uses can make changes to these aspects of the app and service that previously were read-only in the browser-based version of Google+.
The main stream of posts is absolutely gorgeous. Previously, the stream was limited to blocky-looking vertical list of posts. The new stream flows horizontally or vertically, depending on how you're holding the device. What's more, there are multi-touch gestures baked into the user interface that allow users to rearrange the posts however they like. There are tools at the top of the stream that let users parse between circle groupings, such as All, What's Hot, Nearby, etc.
Commenting and re-sharing posts from the dedicated app--previously a chore--is now a breeze. The tools in the app make expanding posts easy, and opening slide shows or videos embedded in the posts doesn't require users to leave the main stream of posts. If they choose to leave the main stream, however, those photos and videos look rich on the iPad's display.
Beyond simply looking nicer, several key features that had previously been unavailable to iPad Google+ users are now on board. First is the ability to upload photos and videos directly from the iPad. This was a painful omission from the previous browser-based app. Second, iPad users can now initiate and/or join Google+ Hangouts. Hangouts are Google's version of video chats, either one-on-one or in a group.
I tested the Hangout feature, and it is as simple as entering some names in the address field and pressing a "call" button. The video quality via Wi-Fi was excellent and I didn't notice any performance problems.
So what's still missing? Well, iPad users still can't take advantage of rich link sharing within the app. Also, users can't edit posts, which is a key feature of the desktop version of Google+.
Despite these and other limitations, Google did a good job with this app. Too bad it took the company a year to deliver it.
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