Free. Clean and smart design. Easy to navigate. Easy to learn. Automatically includes a separate app for Huddle (group chat).
- Cons No administrative controls in Huddle. Not all thumbnail images resize and display properly.
Do Google services work best when used on Google platforms? I was curious if that would be the case when I installed the a Google+ Mobile app (free) on an Android-based phone (Android being Google's mobile operating system). In fairness, Google's new social network, Google+, runs just as well on Android as it does as an iPhone app (free, 3.5 stars). It doesn't get special treatment on Android, except that when you download and install the app, you actually get two: the primary Google+ app and a separate app for Huddle, or group chat. The only other difference is that the interface on Android deviates slightly from what's in the iPhone app; the way the apps work is largely the same, however.
Mobile apps are essential to the whole social networking experience. Think about Facebook and Twitter. Mobile apps are the most convenient way to check in on what's happening, and just as quickly get back to life in real time. As a social network, Google+ has made itself is much more usable with the addition of the mobile apps.
Part of this success comes from the design. Less screen space (compared with a full computer monitor, where other Google properties are often deployed) means every inch of it has to be use effectively. If you've ever felt that Google was too sparse with its designs on the Web, you might see Google+ as a revelation in Google UI. The app is clean and easy to navigate without too many menus and unnecessary words cluttering the screen.
How to Get Google+ Mobile App
Start by locating the Google+ Mobile app in the Android Marketplace, and dropping it onto your mobile device. Alternatively, you can try getting it through a QR code provided by Google.
Once you find and install the free app, just sign in using your Google account, if it's not already synced to the phone. If it is synced, you can select it from a list after firing up the app. Note that you must already have Google+ access in order to use the app, so if you haven't received an invitation yet, hang tight until you do.
Like Facebook's mobile app, the mobile version of Google+ orients you with a landing screen that shows the main components in a grid, their icons and single-word descriptors helping you choose how you'll use the app. Google+'s icons are not yet as well known as Facebook's, so the names printed below them help a great deal: Stream, Huddle, Photos, Profile, and Circles. If you didn't guess what you can do by the name of the tool, at least you'll be mildly intrigued to dive in and find out.
Any social networking user will be familiar with words like "stream" (updates from your contacts), "profile" (information about you) and "photos." And if you've used the Google+ site, you've likely already established Circles, or subsets of your connections, grouped by whatever classification you want to create, such as close friends, co-workers, extended family, and so forth.
Notably missing in the mobile app is the Hangout feature, or video group chat, which is Web-only. Replacing it is Huddle, a group instant messaging tool. To use Google+'s Huddle, select Huddle and click the speech bubble icon at the top right to start a new chat. Alternatively in Android, you can go directly to the Huddle app that automatically installs when you first downloaded the Google+ mobile app. In Huddle, you can invite individuals to group chat with you or an entire Circle. As people are invited, their profile pictures appear in a strip at the top, giving you the ability to quickly see who's there. Six images fit easily in that banner at the top, and when more people are invited, the strip become scrollable. This visual presentation of who has been invited to a Huddle is excellent.