Plus is the fact that Google had a fully functional Android application available in the Android Market the minute Plus went live.One of the most impressive parts of Google's beta rollout of
As such, I have a unique introduction to Google Plus - mobile first. It is an interesting way to test an experimental new social network. The Plus Android app is polished and impressive. But, just as Plus is entering into the crowded social network space, so does the Android application against the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. How do the Android applications compare?
The main interface for Plus has five icons to navigate to - stream, photos, circles, profile and huddle. Three of those five are straightforward. Stream is the news and update of all your Plus contacts. Circles allows you to see your individual groups and has three tabs on the bottom for people, posts and photos. Profile is your Google Profile and is standard information with all of your posts and pictures.
Photos is a differentiator. As our Sarah Perez noted, Instant Uploads is one of Plus's killer features. When Instant Upload is turned on, any picture you take with your Android will automatically be uploaded into a private folder in Plus. You can choose to share those pictures later if you so choose. The feature is a little disconcerting at first and I can imagine toggling it on and off depending on where I am, what type of data connection I have and what is actually in the pictures. Photos allows users to upload up to eight pictures at a time when not in Instant Upload.
Huddles is Google's answer to mobile group messaging. Users can start a group message with a particular circle or with individually selected people. In this respect, huddles is unique - it cannot be found in the browser version of the platform. There is the ability in the browser to chat with circles and there Hangouts allows users to group video chat, but it is not quite the type of system that Android has with huddles.
It is a bold and intriguing move by Google to have a service available in the mobile version of the platform but not (specifically) in the browser version.
Facebook for Android
Google Plus on Android is sparse in comparison to all the functionality that Facebook packs into its mobile application. Facebook includes: news feed, profile, friends, messages, places, groups, events, photos and chat. Anything and everything that makes Facebook a great social platform is available through the Android application.
Google Plus is coming for Facebook's lunch when it comes to photos. Facebook's rise to 750 million users is tied to the fact that it is one of the best places on the Internet to upload and share photos with friends. Fundamentally, this is not going to change any time soon. Yet, from a pure mobile app standpoint, Plus beats Facebook in ease of uploading and volume of uploading. Facebook for Android only allows one upload at a time and asks the user what album they want to put it in. Plus allows multiple uploads and asks what circle (or the general public) you want to share with.
Plus also beats Facebook with huddle. Users can chat one-on-one via mobile and from any device, but it is not group messaging. Yet, Facebook beats Plus with its ability to send messages directly to other users, something that is not easily done in Plus, either in the browser or via mobile. Google does have the Google Talk application, which allows for Gchat between a computer smartphone, but that is not technically a Plus feature.
Where the two applications are in a draw is in the notifications department. Both deliver robust notification systems based on when a user comments on a status update or a picture, friend or circle request.
LinkedIn has a fine Android interface. Yet, like the distinct differences the platform has in the browser, the mobile application is a bit limited in its functionality.
LinkedIn does not do photos. It does not have to, photos have never been in the platform's core feature set. The main screen on the app offers updates from connections, invitations, reconnecting with colleagues or acquaintances, a feed of users' connections, a news stream and messages.
LinkedIn serves its purpose of a professional network and does it well with its mobile interface. It does not do chat nor has the robust notification system that Facebook and Plus have.
Twitter is harder to judge against Plus, Facebook and LinkedIn. The company's official mobile app is good if unspectacular and its notifications of @replies and direct messages beats both Facebook and Plus in terms of speed and efficiency. Pictures are easy to upload and lists are easy to navigate.
Yet, a lot of Twitter users gravitate towards third-party applications. TweetDeck, though now officially owned by Twitter, is a popular choice among power users along with Tweetcaster and Seesmic. There are also Twitter functionalities built into the skins from different Android original equipment manufacturers such as Motorola and HTC that do not use a specific applications but instead are baked into the user interface.
Do We Have A Winner?
Is there a winner in the social network Android app race? Facebook is the de facto leader in all things social, so the edge goes to them in terms of in terms of actual usage. Google Plus does some unique and interesting things while LinkedIn and Twitter fulfill their roles well in the Android ecosystem.