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.
(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.