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How does Google+ compare to other Android social networking apps?

by Kristen Nicole

Now that Google+ has been accessible for a few weeks, we wanted to compare its Android app to others developed by the behemoths in social media.

The Google flagship service already has a few advantages on Google phones. Photos from your Android phone, for instance, can be automatically synced and a penchant for private sharing and messaging keeps your messages central to the people with whom you want to correspond. Streams are contextualized by relation and location and updates can serve many purposes.

Google+ is a little bit Facebook, with a dash of Twitter and a sprinkling of Foursquare, glazed with a heavy layer of privacy considerations. This latest social initiative has had the benefits of learning from its competitors’ shortcomings, but how does it stack up to other social networking apps in the Android Market?

Facebook vs. Google+

Google+’s biggest rival is certainly Facebook, with a collection of social networking features jam-packed into a single app. With Facebook you can view friends’ streams, complete with shared photos and links. Chat is an option, though group messaging isn’t necessarily a central function for Facebook’s Android app. You can check-in directly to Places, though localized friend search is not one of Facebook’s specialties. While Google+ doesn’t offer check-ins right now, it is expected that Google Shopper, the local retail and coupon management app, will eventually be integrated with Google+ on some level.

Google+ takes on Twitter

Twitter is another one of Google+’s serious adversaries, with a focus on update streams and basic media sharing. The Twitter Android app is one of the easiest places to post a link or image, sending quick bursts of information immediately to a massive network. Google+ is the opposite in many regards, centering media-sharing around Circles to ensure your content is delivered to a specific group of contacts. It ensures privatized mass media-sharing, scaling down Twitter’s primary use case based on established relationships.

While Twitter lacks group tweets, it does have lists, where content is filtered based on a user’s ideas of curating. Where Twitter leaps ahead, however, is its recently updated support for push notifications, reinforcing a sense of urgency around mass messaging. For Android users in particular, push notifications could seem redundant given Google’s built-in notifications bar, of which the Twitter app already takes advantage.

Foursquare check-ins vs. Google+ localization

Foursquare is a mobile app that helps you navigate the real social world, orienting you around your location, nearby venues, and socially-driven recommendations. Foursquare also supports photo-sharing, so you can tag a location with images and comments. Designed to help you explore your surroundings, Foursquare also added some practical use cases with the integration of local discounts for nearby venues. The Google+ app lacks discount offerings. Google+’s location integration is really an enhancement to your friend stream, filtering by nearby contacts. You can check-in to a location, attaching photos and comments as well. A check-in “post” can be shared with any of your Circles, adding a layer of privacy that Foursquare has yet to offer. And when it comes to location-sharing, this is an important feature to have.

Photo-sharing with Picplz vs. Google+

Part of media-sharing in Google+ is uploading and posting photos. Google is so confident in its social network that it re-branded Picasa and incorporated its photo cloud service into Google+. Photos can be pulled from your Android phone’s gallery or taken directly with your device’s camera. As with all other content-sharing, photos can be limited to a group or posted publicly. Picplz is a photo app with social sharing capabilities and spreads the idea of public posting. Images taken with this app can be sent to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous and even Foursquare, making it a one-stop management tool specific to photos. Google+ is still a private networking experience, even for content on your public profile. With no options for syndicating your photos to other social networking sites, content shared on Google+ won’t go very far across your social web.

GroupMe vs. Google+

You may have noticed that one feature missing from most of Google+’s competitors is group messaging, which has generally been reserved for IM and SMS Android apps. Google+ breaks that notion, incorporating the option into its social networking app. With Huddles, you can create and manage group messages, even selecting entire Circles to be the recipients of your shared bulletin. It’s quite similar to GroupMe’s group messaging app, which lets you create groups around the people already in your contacts list. Google+ doesn’t pull from your entire list of contacts, instead limiting your group communications to other Google+ users. GroupMe is also integrated with your SMS, and has the option to send photos and locations to groups. Message threads are delineated with specially assigned phone numbers, with support for conference calls as well.

Huddle’s group messaging is an important point of differentiation for Google+, tacking on a direct communication channel to the rest of its social features. With privacy acting as the governing principle for Google+, it’s easy to see why group messaging fits so well with this social networking app. Nearly every aspect of Google+ is organized around your social Circles, and group messaging is just another way of managing your online relationships.

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