Google's latest app is a slick one, but will it be a home run? 

 Google+ main menu

Google+ (pronounced "Google Plus") is still pretty fresh on the scene. It's barely a week old as of this writing, actually, and still in a relatively closed beta process. But it's definitely been a trial by fire. We've read about it, we've talked about it, and shoot, the app has even gotten it's first second update in the Market, so now it's time for a thorough rundown of Google's latest baby, mobile-style.

Join me after the break  to see what the hype's all about, how Google is doing things right, and why you should still lust for an invite (but without spamming your email!).

Take another look at that image above. That's the Android app for Google+.  The interface is sleek and familiar, kind of akin to its competitor, Facebook. Icons are arranged in the same grid format, icons are simple are cartoonish, but it all feels very clean and very Google.

It's your first impression of the app after signing in, and I think Google made the right choice in their presentation. It's not obscure enough to be off-putting but not so similar it looks like a blatant rip-off. Get used to this screen, cause you'll be seeing it a lot (until you go to other parts of the app, that is).

The Stream

Google+ Stream

The Stream concept in Google+ is a really cool one, and it's implemented just as well on mobile as it is online. If it looks like a News Feed, that's because it is. Everything that's been shared with you (from someone else) as well as anything you post to anyone in any of your Circles goes here. It's a nice catch-all, keeping everything on one screen, but it runs the risk of being cluttered.

Google+ Sharing

Sharing is as simple as clicking the pencil icon, typing up a post and selecting which circles you want to share it with. By default, your sharing starts off with "Your circles" being up, but you can delete that and choose specific Circles of yours (if you know who you want to share with) or even select individual's names or email addresses (if they're not on Google+). You can also share your location or attach an image to your post, via the large camera and album buttons.

Google+ Location

By sliding your Stream to the left, you'll be able to view all the publicly shared posts that were around your location. You might not know any of these folks (chances are you won't), but you'll still be able to see their stuff because they've made it public. Google+ will automatically determine a rough location even if you're not using GPS, so don't expect to see people's posts from another city.

Another part of the location feature is the ability to check-in places, straight through Google+. It's not Foursquare, Gowalla, nor Facebook Places, but it's own, independent location-sharing component. To do so, press the check icon from your Streams menu and you'll be taken to another screen with locations you're close to.

Google+ Incoming

The Incoming screen kind of eludes me in purpose. It's for showing the posts of people who are following me, without having to follow them back. I know they've all added me, so if it's a separate wall to see all of the Creepy McStalkersons who've added you but you refuse to add, I guess that's all right.

As we've mentioned before, how Google+ determines what posts jump to the top of the Stream is kind of confusing. Any new activity (i.e. comments) will force the old content back to the top. It's definitely not the best system, and Google has already said it's rolling out tweaks for it this week. So don't sweat it for the mobile app.

Another thing to consider is that while you can share content with anyone in your Circles (all circles, specific circles, and even just specific people), if you're having a one-on-one conversation with someone via posting, it ends up dominating what you see for a while. For this reason, it looks like Google needs to add a dedicated inbox/messaging feature just to keep things organized, unless they present a compelling reason to keep things as they are.

The photos

Google+ Photos

The Photos option in Google+ is really pretty stellar. When you open it up, you're shown the above menu (but with thumbnails loaded). The "From your circles" album contains all the pictures that have been shared with you by anyone in your Circles, and the thumbnail is actually a rolling slideshow of everything you can see.

Photos of you is, obviously, photos of you. Your albums has all of your albums, whether public or private, that are linked up to Picasa. From here, you can decide to share more pictures, comment, or just check them out.

The photos from your phone are pictures that you didn't take with your camera, but uploaded to Google+/Picasa from your phone's internal memory. That's an awesome feature because it doesn't restrict you to only sharing pictures you've taken live. The camera button in the top-right of the screen opens your camera to share pictures via Instant Upload.

Instant Upload is an option in the settings menu that gives you the opportunity to have any picture you take on your phone instantly uploaded to a private album attached to your Google+ account, so not only is it already in the cloud, it's one click away from sharing with your cohorts. A few of us demoed it the first night we got into Google+ and it works really well.

Google+ Circle photos Google+ User albums

Your Google+ photos Google+ camera option

The Circles

Google+ Circles

Circles on the Google+ mobile app are a fairly straightforward affair. Going into this menu gives you two lists you can choose from: Circles or People. Circles are, well, your Circles. People has everyone you've thus added to a Circle.

When you select a Circle, you then advance to a secondary screen showing you all of the people in that Circle, along with their avatar and email address. Tapping on any specific person on this screen takes you to that person's personal Stream/Posts wall thing. If there's someone specific you want to see, this is a great way to get there.

People offers the same functionality, everyone is just listed alphabetically. To help you make sure everything is still organized, instead of their email address, people's Circles are displayed in it's stead.

Google+ Circles add function

You can also add people to a Circle (or just to your Google+ in general) straight from the app via the + button in the top left corner. You can search by name or email address, and if anyone is found, you'll be prompted to add them to a Circle. Fairly simple and definitely effective.

The Huddle

Google+ Huddle selection

Huddle is one of Google+'s absolutely killer features. It's definitely Google Talk on steroids, and I like it. You can have a list of Huddle's up to choose from, depending on who has invited you to one, but I haven't been able to test if you can actively participate in more than one Huddle at a time.

The idea behind Huddle is that you're huddled with a group of friends (how deep!), so the things you're all talking about are between only you. The other assumption is that you're only mobile when you do this, because there's no web side to Huddle; you can only do it on your phones.

If it looks and feels like a large Google Talk group chat, that's because it is. It's instant and it's real-time, though, so I can't complain. We are all hoping that they add a web-side to Huddle, and if/when they do, it'll probably become a part of GTalk. Expect those two branches to merge in the future.

Google+ Huddle

The Huddle interface is simple and functional. Up top, you've got everyone participating in the Huddle. Down below, the actual text. Me and most of the other Android Central writers tried one out and it works like a charm. It's a very cool idea that's only going to get better with time.

The Profile

 Google+ Profile

The Profile button is just that: your profile. You're able to see your posts, your personal information (on the About menu), or your photos, but otherwise, it's nothing revolutionary. It's clean and aesthetically pleasing, but that's something seen throughout all of Google+, not just the profile menu.

It is cool, however, that on anyone's About screen, if their cell number or email is available to you, you can initiate a text, call, or email straight from Google+.

Other odds and ends

Google+ Notifications

The Notifications done in Google+ are really superb. Whenever there's activity on anything you're involved in, you not only have a warning within the app (on the main menu), you also get a notification in your notification bar.

Selecting your notifications within the Google+ app pulls the drawer up, opposite the Android default, and presents you with all activity on your posts and comments. Bolded selections are ones you haven't tended to yet, and unaccented ones are ones you've already seen.

Google+ Settings menu Google+ Settings menu

Google+ also contains the requisite settings menu, complete with notification options and your Instant Upload settings. There's not much to say here, it's nothing you haven't seen before.

The wrap up

Google's finally done social networking right. There's no other way to put it. Google+ in general has immense potential -- remember it's only a week old -- and the app they've crafted to be your gateway to that network is very well done.

While some things aren't perfect, those aren't the fault of the app, but of certain ideas motivating Google+. You can tell Google's playing for keeps now; they updated this app twice in the week it debuted. I'm sure as more tweaks are rolled out on the backend, the mobile app will see the same treatment.

Overall, this is an extremely polished foray into a "Field Trial." If you're part of the Google+ community, there's no reason not to have this app on your phone. If you're not, download it anyway and lust after a coveted invite. This is quite a force to be reckoned with, but after some months have passed and the novelty has worn off, we'll all see how Google+ (the whole service) has fared.

 
There are 54 comments

ssethv says:

I have been following this closely on Twit (This Week in Tech) and Twig (This Week in Google) podcasts, and once this is made public I am looking forward to see what google will do with this... I especially like the Idea of Huddle and Hangout... Now, Lets see how facebook responds :)

r8dern8tion says:

How do I get an invite to use this thing? It looks really cool. Can someone send me an invite please!!

I really love this Google+ project and the entire idea. The problem i have is my friends, family, co workers, etc are not at all in line with google services. I use Talk (for chat and video), docs, maps, gmail, and a bunch of other google services. It seems all of my friends, family, etc laugh because they dont see it as a viable option. They use skype, facebook, BBM, etc. Do others have the problem of their friends not willing to change and give it a chance? I really hope it takes off

BTW im 22 and in college - you would think my age group would be better at this breaking technology stuff? ... not really

IMO its WAY better then facebook. The reason i deleted my facebook was becuase i could not separate social groups. This is far better designed and implemented then facebook.

smathew4 says:

funny that they consider BBM a more viable option than gTalk!

i have people all around me who readily switch to the Google ecosystem because of all the options available under one profile. nothing else compares right now, or in the near future. maybe your friends will see the light when they see you sharing docs and collaborating while updating your calendar and having it all show up on your Android phone instantly.

... or maybe you need to get more tech saavy friends =)

skatejake says:

I'm in the same boat as you. I'm an avid google product user but many of my friends are not. I hope this takes off and more people start using it!

nibs13#AC says:

any chance you have an extra invite for me? my email is nabeel.thomas13@gmail.com

if anyone else has one to spare, i'm happy to spread mine around androidcentral once i'm in.

thanks!

This is a great idea and I love it much more than Facebook and it does more and has much more functionality, its just much better.

r8dern8tion says:

Can i get an incite, please!

orlanka says:

The way Google+ allows you to manage your account is leaps and bounds ahead of Facebook but don't be surprised if Facebook changes it's formatting soon.

Menno says:

The problem is that it will almost have to be an "optional change" instead of something baked into the core of sharing. Facebook has millions of users already. Could you imagine them telling people 'Ok, you have to reorder all your friends, and here is a brand new way of sharing"

orlanka says:

I can see Mark doing whatever it takes to try and maintain his dominance. If Steve Jobs is willing to introduce pull down notifications and a bbm style messenger, then it's all really fair game until someone collects enough money to buy everyone else out.

inphoenix says:

I need an invite. Can someone help?

otto says:

I need one too! Anyone have one to send to me?!

anthonok says:

They need to hurry up and open it to the public ASAP or people are going to get tired of just hearing about it and forget it and move on

olegk says:

Seriously... I got in and invited my friends a few days ago. It still doesn't allow them in. What's the point for me of using a social network if I don't have any of my friends in it. I understand it's been only a week, but man, I wish google let more people in faster.

jaykingofgay says:

Dude, it's in beta field test, in other words, it's not released yet. Do you want them to release it into the wild only to have nobody use it because half the features aren't working properly?
They're doing this field test so that they can address bugfixes BEFORE they have 8 billion people running around the server and posting all over the net how Google+ is a big failure because feature XYZ doesn't work.

This is how tech works now. They do live testing with a small group of users so that they can (hopefully) address most major issues before they go officially live.

It looks like Google+ has the potential to blow Facebook out of the water. Now if only Google would let me sign in five days after getting my invite I would be a happy Googler.

Drifter#AC says:

Would someone please send me an invite? Much appreciated

Rat A Tat says:

This is looking better and better with every article I read about it. I'm one of many who are still desperately trying to find an invite.

mjneid says:

For all of you people asking for an invite the invite server is off line you cannot get into the loop. Holy crap i wish people would read a little.

Anyway i would love to be able to use this program. However I will set back and wait my turn. I'm sure i'll snag one. I got a Google Voice before most, i got a Google music invite right away. Now all i need is this and i'll be batting a thousand.

Actually, we are still inviting people just fine. The invite button is gone but if you share something with someone that doesn't have an account it will send them an invite email. The problem is that when you try to sign up with the invite, most of the time they are full and it tells you to try later. But if you hit it at the right time, you are in. It can take up to 12 hours to get the invite in my experience of sending them and, like I said, just because you get one doesn't mean you can sign up.

JoshUng says:

Two things I like is how you view your own profile. First, there's an easy "edit" button. Click on that, and it changes your whole profile into one easily editable file, as you edit it, you can see how it will look.

Also, when on your own profile, you can click a button "View profile as" which lets you see your own profile as another user might. While I think the privacy settings are simple, if you are not sure if you overshared somthing, this makes it much easier to look and make sure.

svargas05 says:

You know what I DONT like?

I wish you could close out old Huddle chat conversations you have going.

The best you can do is "leave" it, which in essence closes it, but it you're just chatting with 1 other person, that option isnt available and it stays forever.

Thoughts?

jaykingofgay says:

there's a feedback button at the bottom right of Googe+ Report the issue. They can't address it if they're not aware of it.

Yah know. Its easy to say A or B is going to kick X or Y's ***. Because its always fun to root for the underdog. However in this case. Unless Facebook does a major 180 turn on everything from their overall approach on their UI design for their website. (Seriously Facebook....need to go into editing friends to create a group!??)
To the more annoying aspects that clearly shows a lack of understanding on how people communicate. (The groups that automatically now can see each other chat WTF Facebook?!?) To a blatant disregard to any type of privacy since security is directly counter to their business model. If Facebook doesn't change Google and Google+ IS, without a nanosecond of doubt in my mind going to walk all over Facebook with Circles, Hangouts, Huddle, etc. There was real thinking going on in Google+ vs. Facebook that feels like it was rush, and just has crap bolted on in a haphazard method that frankly feels like the developers were dunk when they designed it. Have I mentioned I HATE Facebooks UI? =P

JIMB093 says:

For people asking for an invite:
I was able to get in yesterday without an invite by signing in through the app. I was skeptical that I went to the computer and logged in and sure enough I was in.

I don'know it's a fool proof method or if some other attempt I had made before helped.

jignacioa says:

Hi, I'm writing for something different, I would like to know which program it is used for the battery status in the notification bar, that appear in the screenshot.

Joshua Munoz says:

That's actually just a feature built into CM7.

SmokeCrawler says:

It looks promising, but whenever I get an invite I'll give an honest answer.

moda0222 says:

I'm with smoke! I will reserve my review until after I've played around with it for awhile...unless of course one of you fine people would be so kind as to send me an invite? hmmm?

Honestly I wil always like facebook that is integraded into my htc sense on my evo 3d but yes I have downloaded google plus and google huddle hoping and waiting for the oportunity to become a member. I am an android suporter and google lover so I will definately try google plus whenever I get the chance. I have a funny feeling that many people on facebook will do both google plus and facebook I reside in that camp I will do both until I have an reason to pick one over the other...

iLLusive says:

This part right here "or even select individual's names or email addresses (if they're not on Google+)" is a little misleading and incorrect. You only get "suggested" people to share a stream comment with. You have NO option to manually enter an email in the app like you can on webpage version. Least that is all mine shows when you click "People" instead of "Circles" you get option to Share with... View suggested people: Followed by list of contacts not already in your other circles.

tsanders3#AC says:

You can start to see why the cell phone companies are cutting the unlimited internet. The auto upload picture features sounds nice. If you take a lot of pictures, say on a vacation, you can see how it could eat into your monthly internet. Does it have an option to upload on wifi only? Hope Apple releases it to iOS owners soon.

mrjwalkerpre says:

I take too many....er Wiener type pictures for that.

syscokid144 says:

Would love an invite if anyone can make it happen. Requested one on day one and nothing yet. Cant wait.

RandallMeek says:

What I want to know is why I can't download the app. When I click the link it says that the item can't be found.

RandallMeek says:

Oh yeah, I am on an EVO.

ztag100 says:

Google+ is going to run circles around Facebook (Pun intended :) )

Goat-Tee says:

Only get my notifications to show up after opening the app. They aren't instant. Anyone else with this problem?

For those asking for invites, stop. They're closed for the time being. You are wasting you time an energy for them. As for Google+, this is the best social networking tool Google has come up with. Forget about Wave and Buzz. The big selling point is the circle feature, especially on the Android app. I love having more control over what I post. FB does not have that on any of the mobile methods. I don't think this is going to be something that will be short-lived. FB better be scared.

cgagn1608@ says:

Hi, can somebody send me an invit please
?

S_C_B says:

I just got into Google+!!!

WooHoo!!!

dddjam says:

Hi...I would greatly appreciate an invite!

velezwill says:

invite me!

p5stover says:

Find people who live in the city I'm traveling in? Where's that feature??

SoCalMario says:

Invites started working again as of yesterday. I had an invite sitting in my mailbox for a few days. It finally let me in! But I can't try google+ at work, Im going to have to wait till I get home to use it.

jaykingofgay says:

They periodically are turning the invites on and off. Remember, this a a field test, Google+ has not been officially released, they haven't even given a release date. Anyone who's in there right now is really just a tester. Hopefully it will be released in the next month, but so far I'm not seeing anything bad. Guys in my office were on their iMacs using the hangouts feature, looks cool.

It's a very cool app. I shared a pic on the mobile version while having the laptop up (signed in) and as soon as I pushed the pic, the STREAM displayed it immediately. Very cool! The site is currently letting folks, with invites, in at this moment. The ONLY thing that I don't like is the INability to LOG OFF and use another account for the mobile device...still in Beta...

Hit me up if you want an invite...Catch? - you'll have to add me into your CIRCLE. :)

El Jefe says:

I'm like it so far, but won't really know until more people are on it. I currently only have 1 person in 1 circle because no one else I know is in! LOL.

My question though is why do I have a seperate app for Huddle when I only downloaded the Google+ app & Huddle is already in that app? It seems redundant & won't let me uninstall the Huddle app without trying to uninstall the entire Google+ app.

carraser891 says:

its gunna take YEARS for this to take off. there are over half a billion people on facebook worldwide so its not going anywhere anytime soon no matter what comes out. People want to use what they are use to using...they don't want to try something new or take the time to try something new. Unless all my friends switch to google+, ill be on FB.

sohungry says:

Does anyone know what the status on invites is? Are they officially in closed beta or can you still send out invites?

bhilgenkamp says:

I've invited several people today

TravisWin90 says:

Can someone invite me please gogitem.tw@gmail.com

Done