Google+ is sleeker, optimized for tablets

Google+ for Android is a clean and intuitive mobile app that gives you all of the powers of its desktop counterpart save for the games and a few other minor features.

Gone is the dashboard of icons that once greeted you upon opening Google+ for Android. Now, you can zip around the app with a sliding navigation ribbon on the left of the screen. This gives you easier access to your Stream, Profile, Messenger, Hangout, Photos, and Circles. As a whole, the app is easy to use and just as intuitive as its desktop counterpart.

What used to be called Stream is now simply your Google+ Home screen. This is the lifeblood of Google+. With the little drop-down at the top, you can choose to show feeds from All Circles, Nearby, What's Hot (trending posts), or any of your individual circles. As of yet, though, you can't create a custom feed with more than one circle (Family & Friends, for instance).

From your Home screen, you can do almost everything you can in the full desktop version of Google+. You can easily comment on, share, and +1 items, and, of course, you can create and edit your own posts with pictures, videos, and location tags. You can even download photos from posts, directly onto your device. As for looks, this screen shows a huge improvement over previous versions. It is now a lot cleaner, with wide images that look extra-stunning when in high-res.

Here, you can see your Google+ public profile page, all of your posts, and all of your photos. Unfortunately, you can't edit any of your profile information (except for your photo) from the Google+ app, which is a minor letdown.

As expected, this is the hub for all of your photos and videos. It provides a simple interface for viewing and commenting on items from your circles, items you're tagged in, and, of course, all of your own album items. You can also share, add tags to, or download photos.

One thing I love about the Google+ app is that it includes an Instant Upload feature, which automatically backs up pictures and videos taken on your Android device. By default, these items go into the private "From your phone" album, where you can easily access and share them at your convenience. Of course, you can disable Instant Upload if you're worried about battery drain, but I think it's a superconvenient feature that should be taken advantage of.

Here, you can manage your own events as well as those to which you have been invited. With a single tap, you can start setting up a new event, complete with date, time, invitees from your circles, and even a location tag.

With the Google+ app, you can easily create a new Hangout (video call) while on the go. And with a couple of taps, you can enable or disable audio or video, or switch cameras. Also, it's just as easy to join a Hangout in progress, if you come across one in your stream. If someone invites you to a Hangout, your phone will notify you, much like it would for a typical voice call, and upon answering, you can decide to enable or disable video. If a lot of your friends are on Google+, then this feature is going to be a much simpler option than, say, Skype.

The Messenger feature lets you chat with one or more of your Google+ connections from a single panel. You can add photos to your conversation, either from your album or directly from your device's camera. The feature is easy to use and has tons of potential when it comes to coordinating with friends. It can actually be a lot more convenient and powerful than mass texting, if most of your friends are on Google+, that is.

In this section of the app you can view and manage all of your Google+ Circles. You can easily view posts and photos from individual Circles, create new Circles, and move people between Circles. The experience here is very much the same as it is on the desktop.

Overall, the Google+ app provides an excellent way to interface with the Google+ social space while on the go. The interface has been cleaned up significantly, and all the functions are tucked neatly into the sliding side panel. Plus, Google+ has been optimized for tablets. The biggest downside I see is that the app is relatively large, taking up almost 30MB of memory. Still, whether you're a regular Google+ user or you're just interested in Instant Upload or Hangouts, you don't want to miss the Google+ app for Android.

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