Google+

A fresh interface and yet another great Auto Awesome feature have us loving the latest version

It wouldn't be a step too far to call this week's Google+ app update one of the biggest redesigns since the app first arrived on the Android Market (yes, that long ago) back in 2011. The update changed the look of the entire app, switched up how you navigate through it, and if that wasn't enough also included a brand new featured called "Stories."

This is a big step in terms of design and features for Google+, and we like the changes. There is quite a bit to get used to in this latest refresh, though, and we're going to walk you through all of the changes and new features.

First reactions and getting around

Google+

It's a good thing that Google decided to do a two-panel "what's new" splash screen when you update the Google+ app, because the interface changed pretty dramatically with a single update. Google has gone to a bold style with a bright red bar at the top of the app, contrastingly strongly against the whites and grays elsewhere. Gone are the slide-in drawer from the left edge and the ever-present status update bar at the bottom, hiding a bit of interface redundancy.

What you'd normally find behind the slide-in drawer is now available from a secondary bar at the top of the screen, mostly. You can tap the "Everything" listing in the top bar to switch between the content you view, including specific circles, communities, "what's hot" and nearby. A search button is now permanently in view on the home screen, which makes a bit more sense considering we're talking about Google here.

There's no longer quick access to the Hangouts app inside the Google+ app (it used to be in that side bar), but considering how it has been completely decoupled with the last few updates of Hangouts, this makes sense. The account switcher can be accessed by tapping your name in the top bar, and it'll drop down a screen where you can move to other accounts or pages that you manage.

Pull-to-refresh is still here, as is the actual "refresh" option inside the menu button. Google dropped pull-to-refresh and the dedicated refresh icon from the individual post view, but it's still available behind the menu button if you need to hard refresh a specific post you're viewing.

Creating posts

Google+

The former bottom bar is now condensed to a red pencil with a white circle around it in the bottom right corner of the interface — tapping it will give you a more generic composition window where you can then add locations, moods, links or pictures. For picture sharing, you get a sneak peak at your most recent photos — as well as a live view of your camera — below the compose box so you can quickly add photos. Swiping up reveals a scrolling list of more photos, and you can tap "All photos" if you want to go back even further in history.

The location picker gives you a top-down map view of your current location, where you can then select a specific point on a map, a landmark or even a city- or county-level location. The funky animated smilies or "moods" can now be added from the post creator as well. You can also now disable reshares or comments as you create the post with a tap on the menu button.

Stories and Photos

Google+ Stories

Nothing has drastically changed on the Photos side of Google+, aside from the big addition of a new "Auto Awesome" feature called "Stories." Stories are a new way for Google to pull together all of your posts, pictures, videos, check-ins and travels into an interactive storytelling experience. If you move around a specific location, travel, take a lot of pictures or check into locations Google+ will now pull those together to make a Story.

For example I recently took a trip to San Jose for the Nvidia GPU Tech Conference. Google+ took all of my pictures, check-ins and posts from that time period and put them together into a great little storyboard. You can selectively choose which locations, photos and check-ins are in each auto-generated Story, add or change annotations on pictures and re-name the Story to your liking.

Stories look great on both the app and the web, and just like other Auto Awesome-generated content you choose which ones you want to make public. It's not something that you'll see pop up for you every day, but it's a huge incentive booster for turning on Google+ Auto Upload and getting more information into Google+. The next time you travel or have a trip around the city, be on the lookout for your Google+ app to give you a Story worth sharing.

A new design direction - and we like it

Google+ Story Post

Although this newly-designed Google+ app is a step in a different direction from other Google apps that have been recently updated, we like where this is headed. The use of bold color is great, as is the simplification of navigation and the new posting interface. Stories are a great feature that makes each and every one of us look like an amazing photographer and story teller while taking out all of the hard work.

If this is the new design direction coming to even more Google apps going forward, we can't wait to see those updates.

 

Reader comments

The latest Google+ update is telling a different kind of story

87 Comments

For some reason, the design reminds me of that android police story that came out about a month ago.

Posted via Android Central App

I am digging the redesign. Clicking on the link to the original post about G+ was a trip down memory lane. Wow, G+ has grown up quite a bit since then.

Posted via Android Central App

At first the change was jarring, and I still wish they had implemented transparency, but the overall experience is growing on me and definitely like the red bar.

Honestly, G+ is only really useful for me when it comes to staying up on the new things in technology and being able to talk to people about it. Otherwise, I use Facebook (for friends) and Twitter (to follow friends, sports, and news outlets) for my social media.

Posted through my Nexus 7!

That's not G+ fault though. They've done everything to make it awesome...just unfortunately FB was just too big and too popular for G+ to ever get a foothold. I love it 100x more than FB, but there are not enough of us that feel that way. I could convince 5 friends to change to G+, but then they each have to convince their whole friends list (or the most important) and it just ain't gonna happen.

Personally, I'd prefer G+ stay the way it is. I don't want my G+ feed being full of photos of people's dinner, or rants about which "friend" pissed them off this week.

And there is *zero* evidence that G+ is "dead", anymore than Android was "dead" with Andy Rubin left the project. Quit being drama queens. (not talking to you, specifically, leaponover)

Same. I use G+ to interact with friends and strangers. I use Facebook to interact with friends. I use Twitter to lurk and get quick news.

I'm more surprised people are still using FB, it's so god awful, annoying, and all around full of garbage, on the other hand G+ is full of actual content and not useless status updates no one really cares about

I'm not really the social networking type, but I know more people ~30yr+ that use G+ than FB. I never had FB, never will, but from what I understand of FB content compared to G+ that makes a lot of sense. I call/text/email actual friends, get new friends # or email, and follow/get info on G+ and Twitter.

I still don't know a single person in real life that uses G+. Not one. Most have never heard of it. Even the ones who ditched Facebook have chosen a different social platform. Outside of the mandatory sign in for Play Store and YouTube comments, it is utterly useless. It might as well be MySpace or AOL.

+1

I found it's only useful for arguing with other techno geeks about phones and such. I had to delete the app from my phone because it was pissing me off lol

Posted via Android Central App

That will happen if you only follow tech sources, yeah. But you could be arguing about all sorts of things!

So what? It's a beautiful interface and great place to follow and discuss topics you're interested in. It's not the same thing as Facebook, and hopefully it never becomes the same thing. I don't care what you had for dinner, I don't care what insipid quotes your grandmother finds inspiring and I don't need to know if you're bored at work.

Yes. I still can't get any of my facebook retard friends to make the switch. Even after the 500 million USD purchase of yet another Ad firm by facebook. Hey if you'll like your sponsered likes and posts and them selling your information be my guest right guys? At least I don't remember g+ pushing all kinds of crap ads in my feed.

Posted via Android Central App

I like the redesign but not the removal of the slide out menu. In this age of super-sized phones why do you force me to the top of the phone? They rightfully moved the refresh to a floating bar at the bottom but hid photos at the top. . . Why? Just why?

Posted via Android Central App

Still though, it seems a little inconsistent to completely get rid of the hamburger menu. Hopefully they will reveal more to this new design language at I/O. Don't get me wrong though, I love this new design.

The slide in menu was never 'hidden' there is a perfectly useful visual queue in the three lines at the top left like every other app with the same menu. Now you have to scroll up just to get the stupid controls to appear. This update is definitely a step backwards

-Slim Nexus 10-

I thought the whole slide out menu was a design feature or something that Google wanted all of their apps to use?

You're joking? I don't have a giant phone and love the hamburger/slide out menu MOST good apps have, including all of Google's. I like the update except for that bit.

Got bored with G+ in general and uninstalled it. i just don't get it i guess (i get twitter/FB/Instagram..). Played with the redesign and it was ok.

I use that same combination. Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for news, and Instagram for photos. I never found the need to add G+ which does all of that, but not as well or with as many users that are important to me.

A new tweak in the Locations feature is you can slide the person's name (either direction) to be given buttons to either Hangout or get directions to his location. But I am surprised there isn't a Hangout button at least from individual profiles. That would be handy.

Posted via Android Central App

if you use hangouts a lot like i do then task switcher which is 1 button to switch to hangouts otherwise your alternative is 2 buttons, 1. Home key 2. Hangouts app...if speed isn't your main complaint then what is it you're wanting a hangouts option or quick contact card for? if anything this encourages some privacy because now I don't see an "up front" way of contacting just anyone via the app, other than if they make it public

Since you can choose who can send you a Hangout directly, there would be no privacy concerns with an "up front" way of starting one with a particular person. That being said, it's not just one or two buttons to get to where I want, since after opening the Hangouts app I'd also have to type in the person's name (if I never started a Hangout with them before).

Ok i get where you're saying. The Web has a icon to message them close to their photo, so doing a icon for that as well in app wouldn't be terrible if you had communicated already.
Posted via Android Central App

I am unable to share photos or enter text comments in the new G+

I really like the new design. Even the share menu was improved.

Posted via Android Central App

I think it is great. I really like G+ even if "everyone doesn't use it" which is actually probably why I use it, because Facebook is becoming nothing but baby pictures and stupid spam posts, so G+ is a breath of fresh air and is where I go for all my tech news first.

You are so right. It is a breath of fresh air. When using it on my phone or tablet, it just looks beautiful. I also read my tech news, TV show news, and get great recipes from G+. Love it!!

There is a big change in photos, well, a reemergence of a feature. When the new photo app debuted, there was access to all of your photo folders. Updates to G+ (and subsequently photos) took this away in the fact that only the 4 most recently "added to" folders were displayed. With this update, Google calls it "on device", but it once again displays all folders. Though it lumps Facebook's downloads into the camera roll, whereas the gallery displays them as a sperate "Facebook" folder....

Posted via Android Central App

Still no auto backup folder so you have to access all photos and now that the cloud icon has gone it's unclear what's been backed up

Posted via Android Central App

sort what chronologically? my feed is chronological ... referring to something else?

Posted via Android Central App

I love how Google got everyone to design their apps with the slide menu, things started to look consistent and then wham a new design interface, great job Google! See how eager devs are going to be to redesign their interface

Posted via Android Central App

That is one thing you have to give to Apple, they are consistent. You would not believe how painful that was to type

It's annoying.. OTOH an app that's been in development for months isn't going to change UI just because Google changed their mind again.

Posted via Android Central App

This comment is spot on. The UI change was completely uncessary and now mis-matches all their other OEM apps. Still, don't mind the app that much. I just don't use it much outside of the website.

Absolutely hate this update!. How can you go from logical & intuitive to this mess?! Sliding in from left or right is so natural, I don't know what Goggles API guys are doing at the moment, but they are screwing things up. Fortunately, it is an Android system app, so I just uninstalled the update and deactivated auto-update in Google play.

Never gave much attention to G+, but I like this update. Now, to get my friends and family to start using it as well...

Posted via Android Central App

Cool story bro! Nobody is using g+, stop trying so hard. At a marketer and social media entrepreneur we post stuff to g+ but only to have it included in Googles search results. You're looking for social media with activity, try twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, sorry

Then you're failing at your job, G+ is just that much better and less spammy than any of the other social media sites you mentioned.

MAybe instead of irrationally hating something, use it and learn it and make proper use of it, this is all your fault, MANY of us are moving away from FB/Linked\Twitter, might want to get on board soon or lose even more money than you currently are

Glad you use Google+, because I would not see your company on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, since I'm not active on those networks. I'm sorry for them that promote their companies.

yea what this guy said ... g+ does everything the aforementioned do plus some ... with less spam, easier filtering, and drastically less oversharing

Posted via Android Central App

This post is completely unnecessary. If you have time for these posts you can't be much of an entrepreneur and marketer.

Has anyone else tries making a motion with a series of pics (manual awesome gif)? Why does it play so painfully slow? Why doesn't play the same speed as auto awesome?

i thought the same ... we must be getting the baby huey version of auto awesome

Posted via Android Central App

All the people the talking s*** about google +, you cannot compare google + to facebook facebook is for scally! google plus is for proper people.

Posted via Android Central App

Wish there was a dark theme. Using white background applications in dark environments sucks.

I haven't played around with the latest update to really comment on usability, but as long as Google didn't muck up their redesign like TuneIn Pro did--then I'll be fine.

Really too bad that you can't create stories on your own. Google has to choose which of your photo sets are worthy of a story and that sucks.

Interesting new design.
The placing of Photos, Location and Events is really weird though. Really not intuitive and those buttons should go away eventually.
1) Photos should make a separate app.
2) Location should move to Maps app.
3) Events should move to Calendar app.

I guess they will do that... and will leave G+ with only posting stuff and viewing feeds. All other apps would use some kind of social media so they would all use G+ APIs. Youtube, Play Store is done already, Music could have a really interesting social part too. Google+ will be integrated everywhere in all Google apps.

I'm not sure why... (Secretly hoping for an explanation).. when using the G+ app and going to photos, it shows me the photos that are on my phone, not the ones on my G+ webpage. I don't auto upload. That seems odd to me.

Thank you for your reply. I do not have my Nexus 5 set to auto-upload to my Google+ page. I prefer to edit and delete many photos prior to upload. But, until this latest update, when I used the Google+ app on my phone I saw what was on the on-line page. Since this new update, I see what is on my phone instead. This is new app behavior in my experience. I don't prefer this.

The only thing that annoys me about this is that Google haven't used the transparent in-app notification and status bars. It's a feature they need to start implementing in all of their apps, not just the launcher.

Posted via Andrex Toilet Roll (2-ply)

What was wrong with the slide menu style?!
This infact is more in need since every android phone is becoming a 5"+ phone.

\_(0.o)_/

I like G+. but this update just messed it up for me. I find it annoying to use, and the design is a failure, in my opinion. The red bar is annoying, and they haven't even made it transparent! The app uses to look like the actual web version, which worked, but now they've done what FB did, making their design a whole lot worse.
That being said, I do like some features, the new button for posting updates, with photos immediately visible, etc...

I still prefer the old version. Don't reply to me saying "oh you're just a hater", and stuff like that, because I'm not interested.

Auto-awesome is NOT awesome at all when you can't turn it off (I enabled backups of photos and it's creating stories and auto-awesome stuff without end, despite the feature NOT being activated).