The top free iPhone application is now Google+, the new social network system from Google, less than 24 hours after it appeared on Apple's App Store. And that's despite a foulup that apparently first published the wrong version of the app.
"We discovered an issue with the version of the iPhone Google+ App that was on the App Store," posted Google's Punjit Soni, lead product manager, Google+ Mobile. "When we launched, the App Store started serving a previous test version of the App which didn't have the stability and fixes that the latest version had. It started serving the correct version a little later. If you downloaded within the first 1 hour 40 (minutes), you may have downloaded the older test version."
The correct current version is: 126.96.36.1999. Not everyone is convinced by that explanation. "You know full well that you (Google) submitted a broken version," argued Jim Thorpe, a Web developer and Google+ beta user, responding to Soni's post. "It's your screw-up. The AppStore doesn't have access to your pre-release builds. You submit a binary, and if it's the wrong one, it's your fault. You're blaming the screw-up on Apple, and your commenters are running with it. Correct them."
Defending his position against critics, Thorpe later in that thread argues that Apple's iTunes submission process is specifically structured to prevent these kinds of snafus. The Google+ iPhone app, which requires iOS 4.0 or higher (but doesn't run on the beta version of iOS 5), seized the top spot in the App Store, despite that glitch and a string of others over the past few weeks.
IPhone users overall give the app a four-star rating, but there are a range of complaints about bugs and other problems. One App Store commenter complained it won't work on the iPod touch, and another said it was the first iPhone app that he couldn't run on his iPad.
Google's Soni pleaded for time, saying all those devices will be supported. The Google+ site is in beta test and currently limited to a few million users. The beta version of Google+ debuted June 28 as a Web application and as an Android app.
IPhone or iPad users, for example, could access the site via their mobile Safari browser. But the browser version, written in HTML5, has been well reviewed, though it lacks some features of the native app, such as the group chat capability, dubbed Huddle.
"The app is solid enough that it might be acceptable as a native app replacement if it did actual notifications," writes MG Sielger for TechCrunch. "Alas, that's not possible. And that will be a big part of the Google+ iPhone app, especially with the revamped notifications coming in iOS 5."
The meteoric rise on the App Store must be welcome news to Google. The Google+ site has been hit by number of very public bugs and glitches. About 10 days ago, the site began spamming its users with repeated notifications via email after the system ran out of diskspace, according to the company.
Google is still working on fixing a range of privacy bugs, many of them related to the site's mechanism to block users, according to a list of known problems published by Google. Those fixes are important to the social network's success.
With Google+, the search giant is taking on the social networking giant, Facebook, with a network designed to have more and easier to use, privacy and security controls. The site lets you drag entries from your contacts list into "circles," each with a "stream" of updates and content. Using a feature called Sparks, you can quickly find content such as news stories, photos or video clips, label it, such as "Boston Red Sox" or "Harry Potter," and with a single button click share it with any number of people in your circles.
Hangouts lets you videoconference with others in your circles. A feature called Huddle lets you set up group chats with members of your circles. Google has just added a feature that lets Google+ users upload contacts on the "Find and Invite" page by clicking on the "Upload address book" button. The process works with the Exchange, Apple, Thunderbird and other systems that support exporting contacts in VCard/VCF/CSV formats.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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