Some people just love Google+ and others just hate the company’s efforts to create a social network and a social layer across all of its services. Google itself seems to be pretty happy with the results it is getting from Google+ so far – or at least that’s what the company is saying publicly. No matter your overall feelings about Google+, though, Google’s new native Google+ app for iPhone is worth a look, especially because it’s hopefully just a first glimpse at what more of Google’s mobile apps will look like in the near future.
So far, the Google+ mobile app was adequate but nothing to brag about for Google. For the most part, it worked (though it did crash at times) and gave you access to Google+’s most important features. Even Google+’s most ardent fans wouldn’t have called it exciting, though.
The latest redesign, however, suddenly makes the app one of the more interesting social networking clients on the market today. Unlike the previous version of the app, which felt like it was designed by committee and lacked luster, this new version almost makes Google+ feel like a Path-like “mobile first” service. It’s highly visual, puts an emphasis on images, and its endless scrolling with new items quickly sliding into place as you scroll down is a nice design touch that feels very different from Google’s latest, often lackluster, design efforts.
Just compare the new Google+ app to something like Currents, Google’s once-hyped Flipboard competitor. It’s not a bad app. It does what it says it does, but it just doesn’t inspire the same kind of enthusiasm as the highly visual Flipboard. The Gmail for iPhone app, which didn’t even work at first, is a better effort but still feels more like Gmail for a small screen than email re-imagined for mobile the same way Sparrow, for example, does.
The new Google+ app, however, finally re-imagines what the service should look like on a mobile device. It doesn’t just try to recreate a version of the Google+ desktop site for a smaller screen.
From what we’ve heard, the new app was developed in-house by Google and the new design wasn’t informed by any recent acquisitions. So Google clearly has the design chops to develop apps like this.
The Google+ team, Steven Levy wrote last year, generally gets a bit more freedom to experiment and make fast decisions than other groups at Google. Maybe it’s no surprise then, that we would first see an app like this come out of the Google+ group. Let’s just hope other teams at Google will look at this app and let it inform their work as well.
A Google project headed by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, Google+ is designed to be the social extension of Google. Its features focus on making online sharing easy for users. “Circles,” think social circles, akin to Facebook’s lists. “Sandbar,” a user-unifying toolbar. “Sparks,” a search engine for sharing content between users. “Messenger,” a group messaging app that allows users to share with certain “Circles.” “Hangouts,” group video chatting designed to allow up to 10 users video chat at once. Each Google+ user can replace his...