Google+ App Adds iPad Support, But Falls Flat

Google has updated the iOS version of its Google+ mobile application with iPad support, but the Safari-based Web browser experience is much more fulfilling.
Google rolled out version of Google+ for mobile on Monday. The update, Google says, includes better control over Huddle settings, aggregated circle notifications, performance and stability improvements, and iPod Touch and iPad support. Except it really doesn't.

Applications that are built to support the iPhone and iPad have a little "+" symbol (how apropos) visible in iTunes so you know, at a glance, that it is a universal app. The revised Google+ app for iOS doesn't include that little plus symbol. That's your first clue that this isn't really an iPad app.

The second clue is discovered when you open Google+ for iOS on an iPad and see that it appears in a tiny box, stuck in portrait orientation. You can double the size, but the resolution is crummy and the app is all pixelated and looks out of focus. Sigh. The portrait orientation is enough to turn me off without testing the app further. I hold the iPad in landscape orientation at all times, so apps that can't rotate to landscape view are deleted immediately from my device. (In this case, I suffered through the app for your benefit.)

The mobile browser-based version of Google+ for the iPad is much, much easier to navigate and interact with, but it has a few key drawbacks solved by the faux-iPad app.

First, the mobile browser version doesn't support the Huddle feature. Huddle is the group-messaging tool that is meant to help small groups coordinate with one another. Since it is part of the iPhone application, iPhone users can take advantage of Huddle to send messages to Google+ circles. The Safari browser can't do this.

Second, the mobile browser doesn't support photo uploads. This means if you just used your iPad to take a great picture (which I admit is highly unlikely), you won't be able to upload it to Google+. The iOS Google+ app brings that feature to the iPad, though again via the low-rez, iPhone-optimized user interface.

The photo stream, in particular, looks awful in the iOS application when viewed from the iPad. The low resolution of all the photos makes the exercise somewhat painful. This is one place where the browser version handily beats the dedicated application. Why? Because the photos are crystal clear and look good.

Both means of accessing Google+ (iOS app and Safari browser) 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 the dedicated application is easier than the browser version, the Safari-based experience is much more fulfilling when it comes to iOS and Google+.

Will Google update the iOS Google+ application to better support the iPad? I fully expect it to. In the mean time, it is only worth using if you really need to upload photos or participate in a Huddle.

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