You’ve all probably heard about Google+, Google’s new social networking site that some people seem to favor over the social network giant, Facebook. It’s a slick new site that lets you invite friends and add them to your Circles, browse through the Stream, or chat with friends. In many ways, it is very much like Facebook, but in many ways, Google+ just seems better.
If you didn’t know already, Google has already released a mobile version for virtually all mobile smartphones on the market. It’s a very well-organized app, as with all of Google’s products, hence the 4.5 rating on the Android Market. It has already been downloaded over 5 million times since its release.
Once you’ve downloaded Google+, you’ll notice that two icons have been added to your app drawer: Google+ itself and another one labeled Messenger. This second icon leads straight to the messenger chat interface, which we’ll cover in a moment. Tap to open Google+ and you are welcomed by a simple menu with five areas: Stream, Photos, Circles, Messenger, and Profle. A notification bar also rests at the bottom, which you can either tap or drag up to open.
This is similar to Facebook’s news feed, where you are able to see status updates, photos and videos, etc. There are three icons on the upper right corner, which enables you to post a status, upload a photo, or even enter your location. After that, you can choose whom you want to share the status with–your circles, extended circles, friends, family, etc.
This means that you can share photos of the party, trip, or restaurant you went to last night to your friends but not to your parents or boss. And, I think that’s something that sets Google+ apart from other social networking sites and apps like Facebook or Twitter: freedom and choice.
New statuses are constantly updated and added to the Stream. +1 it to like it or comment on others’ statuses.
Tap to open and you’ll find it divided into four categories: photos from those in your circles, photos of you, your personal collection of pics, and your mobile gallery, from which you can directly highlight and share up to eight photos instantly to Google+ heaven.
Viewing photos is very simple. Tap the thumbnail to open the photo, where you can pinch to zoom and swipe left or right between pictures. On the upper right hand corner, there is an icon with three dots. Tap on that and notice the options to report abuse and to even set it as your wallpaper.
When viewing your own pictures, there are options to delete the photo, moderate comments, and to set as your profile picture. It is a very well-organized, simple-to-use feature that I found quite appealing.
There are two tabs at the bottom of the screen in this section. The Circles tab shows a list of your different circles. Tapping on any one of them gives either a list of those in that particular circle, posts from these people, or photos uploaded by everyone in that circle.
The other portion of the Circles section is People, which shows a list of all the people in all of your circles, and tapping a person will bring up her/his profile.
This looks like your typical text or chat feature. However, there is more to Messenger that just that. With Messenger, you can invite and converse with up to fifty people, and Messenger will send an invitation to everyone you invite. It also helpfully warns you that everyone in the conversation will be able to see the entire conversation history for that particular group once they accept your invitation.
It’s very simple to start a chat. To start, tap the icon on the upper right hand corner, where you can enter a person or a circle and simply send chat invitations. After that, it’s very much like a standard chat configuration with some cool additions.
At the top of the screen, there is a row of thumbnail pics of all that you’ve sent a message to–useful for seeing who is actually participating in the chat. You can also add people to the chat during the duration of the chat itself, and you have the ability to share photos, as well.
The messages will appear as they come in from the bottom, and by hitting the menu key on your phone, you have the option to edit the conversation name, mute (to stop receiving notifications), or leave. Like other chat apps, you have the ability to leave and visit other areas of Google+, and come back to the chat when you wish.
There is also a video hangout video chat feature for those who have a front-facing camera and run Android 2.3 Gingerbread or newer.
Overall, Google+ for Android is very streamlined and easy-to-use. It places Google’s own social surfer in your hands everywhere you go. Although it does not fully compete with Facebook yet, Hangouts have become available in the app itself, and socialized video chatting on your mobile could be the next breakthrough in social media.
Finally, if you are an Android user, this should be a good sign for you because now you can use your Google social media on your Google phone.