I’ve recently had some annoying experiences with Google’s apps on my iPad and iPhone. I was having a conversation on Google+ the other day with a friend of mine, and I wanted to share some photos in the conversation thread. I had photos on my iPhone that I wanted to somehow get online and link to them in a reply on Google+. I wanted to put them in a Google Picasa album, but Google doesn’t have a Picasa app for the iPad. I’ve seen Picasa apps put out by third parties, but that always makes me nervous, giving some outside source access to my photos. Why should I have to, anyway? Google makes plenty of iOS apps, why not provide one for Picasa? Picasa is something users can spend money on, too, which should be an incentive to make it convenient to use, regardless of your device. I spend $20 a year to get extra storage space, but the best way to upload photos is still on my desktop computer. This sucks because I don’t take the photos on my computer, hell I don’t even take photos on a camera anymore. I take photos on my phone, and half the time I never sync the things to any other device. I need to be able to share my photos on a dedicated photo-sharing site, uploading them directly from my phone.
What I ended up doing was uploading photos via the Google+ app. I thought it would then be easy to get those photos into the message thread with my friend, but no such luck. I could make new posts about photos, but couldn’t link a photo into an existing thread via the iOS app. I also couldn’t find a way to create a photo album on Google+ via the iPhone app, so all my photos just ended up in the Photos From Your Posts catch-all album. Since there are a lot of other photos in this album, I didn’t want to just link to it in my message thread. I ended up opening photos individually in Safari on Google+, copying the long-ass, unwieldy URLs, and pasting them into separate messages in the Google+ thread.
I hadn’t understood the point of Instagram, really, until I went through this. Granted Instagram wouldn’t have helped me put photos into an ongoing thread on any social networking site, but direct links to Instagram photos are at least short. It’s also very easy to share photos with Instagram, since that’s the whole point of the app. Instagram is fairly neutral–or at least it was before Facebook bought it, we’ll see where it goes now–so it supports pushing your photo to Facebook and Twitter at the same time you push it to Instagram. This is exactly what I want. Don’t make me have to copy URLs or upload a photo multiple times or use multiple apps. Let me share my shit on all the big sites that are relevant, and let me do it in one go. Google+ tries to be some big amalgamation of a social networking site as well as photo repository, and it doesn’t put enough effort into the photo side of things. Picasa feels neglected.
Another annoyance with a Google app recently was with Drive on iOS. I pay for space with my Google account, since I needed extra space to store all my Picasa photos. I don’t pay for extra space on Dropbox because I’ve never needed it. However, since I have sooo much more space available to me on Google Drive, I wanted to switch to using it instead of Dropbox. I can’t, though, because Drive lacks the support that Dropbox has. All my iOS apps that deal with files offer support to save those files to my Dropbox account. This is nice, though I could overlook not having the ability to save directly to my Drive account. What I can’t overlook is the Google Drive app not having the ability to upload files. What the hell is the point? I don’t need a glorified file viewer on my iPhone or iPad, that’s what GoodReader is for. Surely this is a feature that’s coming, but I don’t understand why Google released their Drive iOS app at all without it to begin with.
I often have need to take screenshots of things on my iPhone or iPad, or take photos using my iPhone camera. Then I want to get those images to my work laptop running Windows 7. I don’t use iCloud for this because I don’t want all my personal photos and everything else synced from my phone to my work computer. I usually use Dropbox for this, uploading from my phone to Dropbox and then accessing my Dropbox account via the browser on my work computer. However, I was recently at a client’s site and dropbox.com was blocked on their network. I couldn’t use Google Drive because the stupid app doesn’t allow me to upload files from my phone. What I ended up doing is something that others have made fun of me for in the past: I emailed myself photos. This is so easy to do on the iPhone, so it’s almost like they’re encouraging it. Open the Photos app, Email Photo, send it to my Gmail account. I have a filter in Gmail set up to show me messages “from:me to:me” for just this purpose. I thought when Drive was announced I could finally stop the stupid process of emailing files to myself, but because of a half-assed implementation, it continues on.
It always amazes me when products from the same company don’t play well together, like Google+ and Picasa, or obvious features are omitted, like the upload capability in Drive. I was similarly shocked when streaming video from a Windows 7 PC to my Xbox 360 sucked ass. I switched to Windows Media Center and that improved it a good deal, but I still deal with lost connections to the media server from time to time. I don’t know if the oversight is from these companies being too rushed to get stuff to market, or the developers being the final testers and never taking a step back to look over the whole product, or what. It seems like a lot of products could benefit from having more people come in and look over their whole line to see what obvious connections are missing, people who have no familiarity with the product but who would potentially use it.