Google+ on the iPad: Hangouts come to the Retina Display

Google released an update to its Google+ app Tuesday that brings the social network to the iPad in an attractive interface. The updated Google+ app is also available on iPhones and Android devices, and includes multi-person video chatting.

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File
Google released an iPad version of its Google+ app that includes an attractive tiled interface. Here, a man holds up an iPad showing Apple's Chinese site.

Google and Apple may not be each other's biggest fans, but at least they're finding ways (sometimes) for their products to play nicely together. In June Google's Chrome browser debuted on the iPhone, and now a slick new Google+ app for the iPad is out, joining the iPhone version released last summer.

Early buzz is positive: the app incorporates all of Google+'s features in an interesting magazine-like layout, and even allows the multi-person video chats (Google calls them "Hangouts") that are undoubtedly one of the network's most useful features. If you have an iPad, you're probably already familiar with Apple's FaceTime video chat program, which runs smoothly but only lets you have one-on-one chats with other Mac or iOS users. Google's app will let you get in touch with people running just about any device with a camera and microphone, and you can hold a conversation with up to nine other people, if you're so inclined.

You'll see links posted by your friends as large picture titles, with overlays showing how many people commented or "+1"-ed an item (the Google equivalent of Facebook's "like" button). Clicking on a photo opens a larger view; clicking an article opens it in the app's built-in browser. Built-in multi-touch gestures let you rearrange the content as you please. As you scroll through your friends' updates, more items appear automatically, in keeping with the real-time "stream" updates of other networks like Facebook and Twitter.

None of this is terribly different from the iPhone version, of course, but the iPad's larger screen makes everything that much easier to navigate (especially if you're rocking a Retina Display). The new app -- which also rolls out to the iPhone -- also includes a few smaller enhancements like a better image-capturing option. If you're into instant sharing, you can just snap a photo and it'll be automatically uploaded and attached to a Google+ post.

As a network, Google+ is still fighting an uphill battle to gain users. It claims about 150 million active users, compared to Facebook's 900 million. But an attractive app like this certainly isn't hurting its prospects. Eric Zeman at InformationWeek opines, "The main stream of posts is absolutely gorgeous." Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica agrees, saying, "I think it's a better-designed app than Facebook for iPad," although, he adds, "it feels more like a newsreader than a social network to me."

The app isn't perfect -- it still won't let you edit posts, as you can in the desktop version of Google+ -- but it's certainly an attractive presentation of Google's social network. If you're using Google+ on the iPad, let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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