The Google+ app for the iPad is finally here. Aside from adding a bit of Flipboard-esque flash to surfing updates from your social network, the app also turns Google+ into a solid business tool with Hangouts–the Google+ video chat capability.
One of the crucial pieces missing for Google+ has been the lack of an iPad app. Sure, the iPhone app works–in a technical sense–on an iPad, but only in a small, iPhone-sized window or grainy, magnified version with an experience that didn’t take advantage of the display size or capabilities of the iPad.
The new iPad app delivers Google+ in stunning, crisp Retina resolution. That alone makes it exponentially more likely that Google+ users will engage the social network at all from an iPad. But, when you combine Google+ Circles, with Hangouts, and make it all available from a mobile device like the iPad it opens up new options for productivity on the go.
Hangouts have been an option from Android smartphones and tablets since December of 2011, but the iPad has been hobbled with the Hangout-less iPhone version of the Google+ app. The iPad is by far the dominant tablet in use by both consumers and business users, though, so expanding Hangouts to the iPad provides a much broader audience of possible Hangouts participants.
Google+ makes it easy to create Circles dedicated to specific work projects, or a Circle of customers, partners, vendors, or a department within the company. You can easily start a Hangout with any Circle set up in your social network, or just select the specific individuals you wish to engage in a video chat.
Granted, Google+ Hangouts aren’t the only game in town. Business users on the go armed with iPads could use FaceTime, but it’s limited to other iOS or Mac OS X users. There are also services like Skype available that enable you to video chat with other Skype users from an iPad, or more robust video conferencing solutions like FuzeMeeting, GoToMeeting, or WebEx.
The iPad apps for services like WebEx and GoToMeeting are free, but the services themselves have costs associated. Besides, they tend to be more complex and cumbersome than Google+ Hangouts.
Facebook is still the big boy on the social networking block, but Google+ has a solid base. Facebook is rumored to be working on a new version of the Facebook Messenger app for iPhone that will include Skype-like video chat, but there’s no news about an iPad version any time soon.
For free, simple video chats on the go, Hangouts are hard to beat. If you have an iPad, you should give the new Google+ app a try.