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Google+ iPhone app gets major redesign, Android update coming with 'extra surprises'

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Google+ received a major facelift last month, and now the service has been completely re-imagined for mobile phones as well.

Google+ iPhone update
Google+ iPhone update

Google+ received a major facelift last month, and now the service has been completely re-imagined for mobile phones as well. While the old app felt like little more than a wrapper for the mobile browser version of Google+, the new app finally feels like it was developed from the ground-up to be used on a mobile phone.

The most striking change is when looking at a stream of posts from your various circles — each post takes up most of the screen, with any imagery contained in the post taking up nearly the full screen (Google calls them full-bleed photos). There's a quite pleasing animation that accompanies scrolling through posts as well, with new posts fading in from the bottom as you scroll. It's somewhat superfluous, but makes the experience more fluid and doesn't slow things down at all. If you post a photo or link to an article, the accompanying text is nicely overlaid on the image. Tapping the image brings you into the full post, with the image on the top and any commentary taking up the second half of the screen. From there you can easily comment, share, or +1 the post and click through to the original article or photo when applicable.

Shared photo galleries are particularly nice — the images again take up most of your screen, and you're able to swipe across the image and view all the photos directly from your stream. While the full-screen view means many photos are likely cropped to fit, tapping the picture will let you view it in the uploaded aspect ratio rather than the full-screen crop. The visual polish extends to nearly every corner of the app — the new homescreen lists the different sections of Google+ vertically, rather than the awkward grid of the old design, and the new darker color scheme throughout the app is a great visual improvement. There's also a new app-wide, sans serif font that feels much cleaner and modern than the thicker font it replaces.

The updated iOS app is available in the app store now, while the Android app will be updated "in a few weeks" — but Google's promising some "extra surprises" to go along with that update. Unfortunately, the iOS app is still not universal, making the recently-updated mobile web version still the best way to browse Google+ on your iPad. While Google's still fighting off claims that its social network is a bit of a letdown, an app this well-designed makes us want to spend more time with the service — Google's likely hoping its recent redesigns will make its users do the same.