Updated Google+ for Android packs a visual punch

Google has released the Android version of an overhauled Google+ app as part of the company's attempt to move to a "simpler, more beautiful Google", in the words of Vic Gundotra, the company's senior vice president of engineering.

Google+ Android tablet version

(Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

The new app catches up with the iOS Google+ app that Google released a couple of weeks ago with a new visually rich, photo-first interface. In some ways it surpasses it, for example in its support for tablets.

Google trails Facebook by a long way when it comes to the magnitude of membership on the overt social-network Google+ site, but the company is trying to compensate by wiring Google+ social interactions into major properties, including Gmail, YouTube and search. And it's trying to outdo Facebook in features, too — thus, today's app update.

Among the new app's features:

  • Most obviously, a new interface that puts images front and centre, with the text of a Google+ post overlaid on the top. It's supposed to be more visually rich, but we find the new look often cluttered and jumbled

  • The old home screen is replaced by a navigation ribbon that slides down the left edge of the screen. That's a lot less dorky for tablets, which before had five tiny icons amid an ocean of wasted space

  • An ability to +1 a post directly from the stream of posts

  • The ability to start a video chat room "hangout" from an Android phone or tablet using the navigation ribbon. Hangout requests can also ring the phone like an incoming phone call

  • An option to directly turn a photo seen on Google+ into an Android device's background

  • The ability to edit your posts from the app, not just from a personal computer.

All up, it's a step in the right direction. We don't think it's all the way there yet, given the clutter and awkwardly wasted space in landscape orientation, which a lot of people prefer when using tablets. But we expect it'll increase activity, which is a big deal. After all, we've seen discussions pick up after Google added the ability to hold Google+ comment conversations from directly within Gmail.


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