Google Docs for iPhone and iPad review: It's just as bad as Google Sheets

Google Docs is one of Google's newest iPhone and iPad apps. Just be sure you don't confuse it with the Google Docs service itself, because the Google Docs app deals only with word processing and text editing. If you want to access your spreadsheets, you'll need to grab the Google Sheets app as well. Some folks may ask why Google decided to split these services into two separate apps that were already accessible with the Google Drive app. Perhaps for extra features or capabilities? I recently reviewed Google Sheets and found that wasn't exactly the case. So is Google Docs any different?

Much like the Google Sheets app, Google Docs doesn't give you any sort of file organization system for your documents. Everything shows up in a long list and your only view options are list and tiles. Of course you can always use the sort option and find things alphabetically. But if you're anything like me, you won't remember what you named a file from a week ago unless it's in a folder that gives you a clue. So this approach by Google still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If I have folders in Drive, let me have them in the Google Docs app.

Creating a new document is easy enough. Sharing it is just as easy. Collaboration is one thing Google has always done decently well and both Google Docs and Google Sheets are great examples of this. If you're editing a document while someone else is in it, you can see what they're doing in real time.

The real problem lies with the extremely limited functionality Google Docs offers in terms of document editing and creation. There's no option to upload photos from your Camera Roll, hell you can't even paste in an image if you copy it from the Photos app first. Basically, if you need to embed images or media into a document, you'll need to use the online version of Google Docs in order to do it. The options you do have for editing are limited to customizing fonts, alignment, indentation, bullets, and comments.

The good

  • Great collaboration options

The bad

  • Very limited editing options
  • No sorting options for documents, a big messy list is what you get
  • No image and media insertion supported

The bottom line

Unfortunately I'm equally as unimpressed with Google Docs as I was with Google Sheets. They're both half baked products that obviously weren't very well thought out. I can understand splitting services and productivity tools into separate apps if there is some incentive for doing so. In this instance, there is none. There are no additional features or benefits to using either of these apps over Google Drive.

Until Google Docs is able to act as more than a plain text editor, there are better options available that are more worthy of your time and in some cases, money.

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • It seems they want you to use these two apps with the Google Drive app too. Really clunky and annoying, but at least you can traverse your file system. So, use Google Drive to access your files. Then when tapping on one, it opens it in either Docs or Sheets. Then when done, access the sidebar in Docs/Sheets to go back to Drive. Ugly, ugly solution though.
  • Google, please leave the Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentation field. Leave that to Microsoft, and now Apple.
  • Google pretty much defined groupwork with documents and spreadsheets with these apps. Where else can you find a more complete feature that doesn't even require a desktop applicstion and isn't restricted by ecosystem?
  • People did this before google through things like sharepoint and simply across an office network.
  • And still, can't edit tables in Docs in iOS. Really? Like we had tables in Word 5.1 back in '86.
  • Seems to me there are two primary reasons Google would break these apps out. 1) independent release cycle from the Drive app. 2) Home screen real estate When Google launched Drive they were trying to push adoption of it with their productivity apps. By forcing users to download and get familiar with the Drive app in order to use Docs, they didn't have to convince users of Google Drive's value. With recent pushes from Apple and Microsoft on the office suite front, it left Google's offering looking a bit light. They're not standalone apps? Just features of Drive? Google will have to put its foot down on the gas to compete and being tied to the release schedule of Drive and not having an icon of their own on the home screen are disadvantages that now outweigh the benefit of Google Drive adoption. I expect we'll see frequent updates to these apps for a while here.
  • It's it any wonder these suck? They're made by Google.
  • As I said about Sheets app, they would be better off waiting and release a fuller version than just trying to get something out there. Maybe they were just trying to steal some of Microsofts thunder.
  • This is the full version. All they did was cut out Sheets and Docs from Drive. This is hardly anything new
  • This is some of the worst writing I've seen on iMore. You're complaining that there is no folder structure for storing things in the new apps. Are you expecting Google to have 4 different structures-Docs, Sheets, Slides, and then Drive? Drive is where the folders are. Think of it like opening the finder to get to your files. I get that it's really difficult to navigate between Drive and Docs without a back button, this is the same way that every single office suite works EXCEPT for iCloud, which many would argue does a much worse job at managing files because each app has its own folder structure. Even Rene complained about the way iCloud manages files in his most recent articles. Before you just say "it sucks", remember that this is the same way that OneDrive works with the Microsoft office suite and you said that it was fantastic. When you think about it, it doesn't really make sense for storage to be the same application as document or spreadsheet editing. This is a good move by Google, and it will likely expand their user base by not hiding it in Drive anymore.
  • You obviously missed my entire point. Why split them out? It does nothing better or worse than drive, which by the way I don't need explained to me. I don't want to toggle between apps if there is no benefit. That is clearly the case with these apps. It's a half assed attempt to compete with Office and iWork. Yes I expect a file structure. I don't want to toggle between two apps to find files. I'm sorry that's hard for you to understand? And please keep comments constructive. Just because you don't agree with my view doesn't mean yours is right - or that my review qualifies as terrible writing. Read the other comments perhaps and see I am not the only one that feels these apps are pointless in their current state.
  • I agree with Ally wholeheartedly. I've been a fan and avid user of Google Docs/Drive since its inception. The school where I teach has a Google Apps for Education account, and many of my students use Google Drive to compose their essays. However, this move by Google absolutely makes no sense and, as a long-time user, frustrates me. Why in the world would they pull a move like this and make it more tedious to use their products? I get that they want to copy Microsoft's new Office apps, but even Microsoft had the common sense (how often has that been typed?) to, WITHIN each app, link to OneDrive and OneDrive for Business to make it easier to open and sync documents - no toggling or switching necessary. That goes to Connor's incorrect statement about OneDrive and how he says it works the same way. The OneDrive app does store documents and folders, but Word, PowerPoint, and Excel have OneDrive access baked into each one of them, hence no need for switching back and forth. (I should know - I use Office for iPad, too.) The Microsoft file and folder structures are identical, and I frankly would expect the same for Google's apps. Hopefully Google will correct this in an update; if not, they can expect many more complaints from long-time users.
  • Google always seems to half make things.
  • This Google move is simply bad, but does not surprise me. I just remember that the Gmail app (GMAIL!) is a half-baked application. "It does the job" is not enough with the current quality of iOS apps. (In Docs case, it doesn't even do the regular job.)
  • You know, I like Google for a lot of things (GMail in particular, have used it for years now) but their mobile Google Apps is total garbage. You can't *view* a table in Google Docs (have to switch to "preview" mode). As far as features go, period, Google Apps is light years behind Office Online (or Office365, whatever it's called now) both in look and functionality. Microsoft wins this round, hands down. Even seems like it's better than GMail in many regards.
  • I don't know - but I kinda like it. I bought a office app, to be able to change documents which I had on drive - now I don't use it anymore at all [I even forgot the name :) ].
    Yes - you cannot compare sheets and docs with a desktop variant. And I miss some features like search [maybe I haven't found it yet?] and touching to select a cell for a formula - but I built a small calculation sheet within 5 or so minutes and it was easy and painless.
    The recent updates also improved massively the functionality - and I am sure, that Google will further improve the apps. Last time I checked, Microsoft wants to get some money, if you want to use the office apps properly [edit etc]. And Microsoft tends to build fragmented programs with too many options... so the Google attempt is nice.
    I like pages and numbers - but even those applications are not free...