Google Drive has been, in my opinion, one of the best offerings from Google lately (well, maybe not so much after this year’s Google I/O, but that’s just me anyway). Since I’m a long-time iPhone user and prefer the platform generally over Android, one thing that really put me off was the lack of availability of an official Google drive app for iPhone or iPad. Granted, it was understandable, and Google even promised that they’d be released clients for Apple’s smartphone offering pretty quick, but still, it was something missing. Thankfully, yesterday, Google Drive became available on the iTunes App Store as a universal application, optimized for both iPhone and iPad. The offering brings to the table all the features that you might be familiar with from the Android variant of Google Drive, and offers a pretty good deal for viewing, managing, sharing and even downloading your cloud content on the go. We’ll explore all that the app has to offer just past the fold.
The interface, as you can see, is exactly the same what Android version of Google Drive has to offer. Granted, it looks subtly different on the iPhone than what is shown from the iPad’s larger screen above, but the main elements remain composed around five menu items, namely My Drive, Shared with me, Starred, Recent and Offline. A Settings panel, Search bar and Force Sync button complete the package.
When you launch the application for the first time, you’ll be asked to sign in with your Google account. Should you not have one, you may Sign Up for a new one from within the app – standard across almost all Google offerings.
When logged in to your Google Drive, all the content will be synced for the first run, and listed under five distinct menus. My Drive houses your own content, displaying files and folder separately. Each file can be previewed within the app itself, but that’s it – there’s no editing support (we’ll come to that later). You may also share a file with other users, mark it favorite or save it for offline use (accessible within the Google Drive app only). Any items shared with you, will show up under Shared with me, and favorites go in Starred.
Tapping a file’s name will let you open that file for preview within the Drive’s own viewer, which, in my opinion, works naturally better on the iPad rather than the iPhone, thanks to the former’s much larger screen real estate. For example, an Excel document opened on an iPhone looks like this:
Different worksheets are denoted with large, thumb-friendly tabs at the bottom, and can be scrolled sideways for further navigation. Now, for comparison, a spreadsheet on the iPad is shown below. As you can see, this is a much better solution that using it on an iPhone or iPod touch.
It might also be noted that the preview facility is available only for the likes of documents, images etc, and akin to Google Drive’s web variant, you cannot preview media files, like music, videos etc. Should you have any of these stored in your Google Drive, however, you can still open them in another compatible application on your device through the file’s action menu.
The action menu for each file is present in the top right corner of preview mode (on both iPhone and iPad), and is signified by the traditional iOS icon for more actions. You get a maximum of two options; Open In.., which will allow you to open the file in any compatible app that can handle the format, and Open in Safari. The fact that I can open any file in any of the compatible apps installed on my iDevice, makes up hugely for the missing editor, and is a big win for Google Drive in my opinion.
Tapping the arrow button next to each item’s (file/folder) name brings forth its Details panel, which shows a preview of the file’s first page, the last modified date and the people who have access to the file (along with their access levels). The same panel also houses options to open the file, rename it (the button at the top), and share with others (the people icon with the plus sign at top right). A toggle for Available Offline is also present, which, if set to ON, will make the file available for offline access through Google Drive app.
That’s pretty much there is to Google Drive for iOS, and to sum it up, it’s far from perfect. There are a lot of things that we’d like to see added before Google Drive can be considered a complete package. For instance, not being able to upload anything directly from your iPhone or iPad is a huge let down, and the app can also use some push notifications for changes to your drive’s content. We won’t mind the ability to stream MP3 and MP4 files directly to your iDevice, either. Finally, some basic editing capabilities for editing documents is also much desired.
As mentioned earlier, the app doesn’t bring anything new to the mix, and adheres closely to the look and feel of its Android counterpart. The fact that it’s universal is a plus, and it’s a pure delight to preview your files on the new iPad’s gorgeous retina display. That said, Google Drive has a long way to go before it can become a worthy competitor to other popular cloud storage apps on iPhone, and time will tell how interested Google will be in bringing more goodies to its iOS offering. For now, you can download Google Drive for your iPhone/iPod touch or iPad from the iTunes App Store link below.