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Google+ (Google Plus) for Android Hands-on

Google+ (Google Plus) for Android Hands-on
So Google+ has arrived on Android, but what exactly is it? You've probably heard that it's not Facebook, but it's like Facebook, so what's the difference? Google's attempt at social networking reaches for the sweet spot between oversharing in Facebook and undersharing in Twitter through one key concept – Circles. Unlike Facebook, everything in Google+ is organized around this circular concept, forcing you out of the paradox of having 500+ “friends” you barely know. In Google Plus you classify friends, acquaintances and co-workers until everyone gets the place they deserve.

But to get into that magical space you have to... be invited, of course. Google+ is yet another invite-only beta service by the search giant. After the initial excitement of conquering the new lands of the web, you realize that a trip to the Android Market will prove beneficial as that's where the free Android application for the new social network resides.

It greets you with five icons – Stream, Huddle, Photos, Profile and Circles. You already know about the Circles, while the Stream presents you with a unified view of all the updates from all of your circles. Next on the list is Photos, accumulating a lot of pictures. Actually, every single picture you take on your cell phone can be instantly uploaded to the web. You shouldn't worry about privacy, though, as it's stored safely in a private album, so if you want to share it with the world, you just change the picture to public availability... et voila. There's one downside to this otherwise excellent idea – all images are downsized to save you some traffic. In Google Plus you only get to see 720 x 540 pixels worth of an image. 

The profile icon takes you straight to your profile where you can edit all of your personal information. We should add, that Google Plus is helping you to discover what you're interested in through the Sparks feature. Type in your interests and relevant content pops up, which you can share and "spark" a conversation with the appropriate circle.

You might have noticed that we missed Huddle, and for a reason. The feature is exclusive to the mobile application and allows you to easily create group chats with all people in a circle or just handpicked individuals. Now, while that's truly an outstanding feature (just think how much easier it makes organizing a get-together), Huddle puzzled us with being available only in the Android Google+ app. You can't continue your conversation on a desktop, nor through the mobile website, and it's not integrated with Google Chat.

That rounds up the functionality of the Android app, but you won't know all about it, unless we say what Google+ and the application miss as a whole. First of all, the new social network has this creepy yet cool Hangout feature, which is basically a group video chat. Perfect opportunity to use that front facing camera on your cell phone? Think again, as it's not supported in the mobile application, and we'd love to see the engineers at Google add this in next versions of the app. 

The app also doesn't support multiple accounts (that's supposed to be fixed in Version 1.0.2, which wasn't available at the time of writing this), but even more importantly – there is no private messaging. At least in the way we are used to. You can still send IMs or emails to people in your circles, but the lack of dedicated private messaging was a disappointment for us.

To conclude, we have to admit that Google Plus for Android does one thing brilliantly – push notifications. You'll be thrilled with joy seeing how seamlessly Google has implemented push notifications appearing in your dropdown. Those of you used to the Facebook mobile app will find many similarities, while notifications seem to be even better implemented in the new social network. We're sure that Google and Vic Gundotra, the main person behind G+, will put a lot of efforts into this, but even though it's still in its early phases, the network's mobile application look more like a hit than a miss.

Highlights:
+ Excellent push notifications
+ Privacy taken care of elegantly through circles
+ Instant Uploads of pictures puts images in the cloud instantly
+ Huddle exclusive to the mobile app

- The current version does not support multiple accounts (Version 1.0.2 should fix this.)
- No private messages as a dedicated feature.
- G+ is not allowed for people under 18.


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