Google Sheets for iPhone and iPad review: It sucks

Google Sheets for iPhone and iPad review: It sucks

Google Sheets is Google's latest attempt at letting you access their online spreadsheets app on your iPhone or iPad. This functionality was previously handled by the Google Drive app but Google recently decided to make dedicated apps for their productivity suite the way Microsoft and Apple have done with Office for iPad and iWork's Numbers app. Unfortunately, Google Sheet, as currently implemented, isn't as good as either Microsoft's or Apple's app. And unless you're already all-in on Google's office suite — which many are — it's not worth your time.

When I first launched Google Sheets on my iPad I was baffled to see a huge list of spreadsheets appear. That's because I keep all my spreadsheets organized in folders so I can pick out ones for work and ones for personal use separately. I also have a folder for shared stuff. For some reason Google has decided that isn't important to respect or implement in the Sheets app. Instead, I get a huge mess of spreadsheets in a list that makes no sense. At least there's a sort option, right?

Setting organizational issues aside, editing spreadsheets isn't a much better experience. Formatting tools are very limited and include options to add borders and color text and the interior of cells. Don't look for much more than that because you won't find it. You can create formulas but the process is clunky and error-prone. You'll basically need to enter them yourself as there aren't really any tools or cell highlighting supported for formulas.

If you regularly need to insert photos, graphs, or any other kind of media into spreadsheets, you aren't going to be able to do so in the iPhone and iPad version of Google Sheets, at least not at this point.

Aside from copying and pasting items, there isn't support for any media types I can find. If I'm simply overlooking it or not understanding how, I'd love if someone in the comments could point it out. I'm very confused as to why Google wouldn't at the very least offer some basic chart types or import from Camera Roll.

One thing Google Sheets does better than many other spreadsheet apps is sharing and collaboration. iWork and Office let you collaborate but not nearly as effortlessly as Google Docs. Google lets you invite people and view what they're doing in real time, much as you can in the desktop version of Google Docs. You can tap the info button on any spreadsheet in order to see who is allowed to edit and view your sheets.

The good

  • Same sharing and collaboration tools that Google Docs on the web uses

The bad

  • No support for folders, wtf Google?
  • Very limited formatting options
  • No chart or graph support
  • Zero image import utility

The bottom line

I can't help but feel like Google Sheets is part of Google's attempt to compete with the newly released Office suite of apps. I recently reviewed Office for iPad and found it to be pretty impressive. If this is Google's answer, I would have rather waited than get fed a barebones spreadsheet app that does little more than function as a number entry. Where is support for graphs, charts, forms, and everything else that makes Google Docs worthwhile?

Until Google Sheets is updated, I can't find any reason to recommend it to anyone when there are much better options already available that support Google Docs.

In other words, if you're not locked to Google, look elsewhere for now.

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Google Sheets for iPhone and iPad review: It sucks

28 Comments

Thanks for the heads up. Google would be much better off to have waited and issued a better product rather than a "Me Too!" While I'm not a huge Microsoft fan you have to give them credit for doing their iPad apps the right way. The downloads they have had since releasing their apps show that even with the time that people waited, they still downloaded their product.

Agreed, having been a fan of google software, they are pushing me away with the last few updates of a few of their products.

If you want to manage folders, that is what the Google Drive app is for. Think of the Google Sheets app as the spreadsheet editor companion for Google Drive.

Agreed. Once you select your spreadsheet in the Drive app, you're taken immediately to the Sheets app for editing anyway. I think the point of "no folders" for Sheets is to make it as easy as possible to open a recent sheet. (Although I can't think of a reason why they couldn't limit how many recent sheets you see, and list the folders after that, or something...)

Saying "it sucks" is not a fair or true statement. If adding charts and images to your spreadsheets is your thing, then yes, this isn't the best choice. But the app works excellent for what myself and many others need. While the lack of folder support with regards to the "Google Sheets" app is technically true, it's a very uninformed statement.

No. It sucks. It's good for nothing but plain text entry. That's not exactly what I would call a spreadsheet app. Not in the least bit.

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Granted, if you directly compare Microsoft Office and Google Docs / Sheets, Office has a more robust feature set... there's no denying that. However, as you yourself pointed out in your review, it could be okay if you're "already all-in on Google's office suite — which many are". Personally, I have been using Docs and Sheets for years, and only rarely do I come across a missing feature that I actually need. There are some omissions on the mobile apps (particularly charts), but the app is still usable for light editing / sorting, and I suspect I'm far from the only person who only needs it for that.

I meant unless you are so tied into google you must use google products. Perhaps I should have been more clear. If I could open google docs on office for iPad, i would use that. Same with iWork. But I linked to a full list of other options that DO use google docs that are far better. Which makes it really hard for me to say it's a good option.

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Because I don't want to toggle between apps? Why release a separate app that has less functionality or neuters a previous implementation? Sorry, I don't think stepping backwards is ever a good move.

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Well actually, they released a separate app with more functionality, since the new Sheets app allows offline editing and the old Drive implementation did not. Plus, a lot of people probably didn't realize there was an office suite within Drive, so this exposes that suite better for the average consumer.

If you wanted folders in the Sheets app, then you'd be seeing all your files in Google Drive as well. You use two apps with everything except iCloud, which divides your files into a mess in which you have unique file structures for every app. Windows-find the file in Windows Explorer, open it in Excel. If you just open Excel and try to find it, you'll see a huge list of recent documents. Mac-find the file in Finder, open it in Excel.
iCloud is unique in how much it completely sucks in managing files. I understand that switching between apps is no fun on an iPhone, and that a back button would really smooth things over, but just saying that it sucks is not good writing
Also, surely you'd acknowledge that this is version 1, and that they will need time to implement all the features of a full spreadsheet editor. This is a mobile app. If you want full features, use the desktop app.
" And unless you're already all-in on Google's office suite — which many are — it's not worth your time"
You said the same thing about the Microsoft apps but didn't say "it sucks"

There is a button to open Google Drive in Sheets / Docs, and it does take you back to the folder you were viewing. But yeah, a back button would make a lot more sense.

I agree, but there are some issues with the Android back button in that you don't know when it's going to take you to the homescreen or another part of the app. With on-screen buttons, this should be easy to make clear since it already indicates when the back button means pushing away the keyboard, but there's been nothing from Google about that...

I agree, it could be improved. But it is leaps and bounds above not having one at all. So many times I am scrolling through a chat on my iPhone, and accidently (or purposely) click on a link someone shared. There is no back button to quickly go back! On iOS, I am find myself using the multitasking cards a lot to switch between apps, whereas on Android, I use the back button a ton and rich notifications a lot. Completing tasks on Android is much faster.

Do you know how hard it is to hit the upper left corner of a phone one handed? The back button is the most used button on my Nexus 5, and having it at the bottom makes it much faster and easier.

It's even worse on an iPad. :-P Still, iOS is not going to change their design language that way, so might as well take what you can get.

It doesn't necessarily need to change that way, but there is something fundamentally wrong with iOS navigation. the iPad at least has gesture support, which I used all the time, but still.

Not seen this problem mentioned. But I have a largish spreadsheet made on the web version of google sheets, and in the mobile version it only displays the first 100 rows. Really Useless IMHO