America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between. - Oscar Wilde
The major tool that Google+ brings to social networking is the ability to group friends into circles. Facebook allows groupings too, but it's rubbish. Here, it's pretty much mandatory to drag people into one circle. At least, it is if you want to communicate with them and see their updates.
You can drag multiple people into circles and Google suggests friends. When someone adds you as a contact, Google+ will always ask you what circle you want to put them in.
Where this comes in handy, is when you want to restrict who sees what content from you. It means you can stop work colleagues from seeing your nude weekend photos, and your awesome weekend buddies from seeing what a soulless work life you lead.
Chat with Text, Audio and Video and Youtube
One of the features that's head and shoulders above anything Facebook has is the chat interface and the option to "hangout". We agree, the name is utterly dreadful, but once in a Hangout, you can chat to friends using audio, video and good old text. The video portion is clever, with the main window showing video from whomever is currently talking. It does this by listening to your microphone. If people speak in short sentences, it's a bit of a headache, but for normal conversations, it's excellent.
Another pretty handy option is to play a Youtube video, and other users in the chat can join you in watching these videos. This might be handy for business users, but we think the Youtube generation will love it, they can even lip sync along with each other, probably.
If you have used Google's confusingly named "+1" service, this is also tied to Google+ too. This means, everything you +1 on the web will show up in your profile for you to refer back to. This essentially turns it into bookmarking, but with some bonus for the web site you bestow your +1 on.
Leaving is Easy
Unlike Facebook, which begs you not to leave, Google+ has an easy way out, should you want to take it. A single button press should get you out of the service, never to look back.
On the negative side, the leave process could see people who don't pay attention closing their Gmail account. We don't know what would happen if you did that, but we're prepared to bet the air would turn blue.
And, when you go, you can download content too, like your photos and the lists of who is in your circle, presumably to upload them again if anything goes wrong with Google. A nice feature.
Photo Sync from Android Handsets
As you'd hope, Android users are treated like royalty. And that's a good thing, because the Facebook app for Android is little more than poorly scripted joke. The best feature is photo and video sync, which allows you to auto-upload images from your camera to a private album.
This is good for a backup, and it's super-handy if you are the sort of person who relentlessly shares every tedious aspect of your life with everyone you know.
This function is optional, and you do get to chose when content is uploaded. For example, you can stop it from working when you're on 3G and it can also be restricted to times when the phone is on charge.
We're not giving Google+ a formal score, as we need more time with it to do it justice. We do, however, think it has promise. If you ignore the lack of users, then it's faster, more stylish and more respectful of privacy than Facebook. It also adds in video chat in a way that Facebook has yet to manage, and the potential for +1 content to take off has now increased greatly.
Google has a fight on its hands to make Google+ a success, but it must be pleased with how people have taken to it so far, and by the lack of vicious hatred that Facebook attracts.
Perhaps for now we'll give it a +1. µ