Earlier this week, Google announced some long overdue changes to their Contacts platform. On the surface, it’s a complete overhaul to the look and feel of the site, but behind the new material design, that aims to bring uniform appearance to all Google products, you’ll see that they are moving in a new and positive direction.
You can preview contacts here and toggle back to old view here.
If you use Gmail, then you may just think of Contacts as the place to organize your address book. It nicely syncs across devices if you own an Android phone or tablet as well with the option to organize people into groups. When Google Plus rolled out, they added a new confusing layer to contacts. You can have a person in your contacts with personal details but not have them in a circle, or they can be in a circle only with just publicly shared contact information. The two sections still exist, but clearly there is a push to simplify things with imminent changes to Google+.
The new ‘Find Duplicates’ reveals a smarter algorithm than before. Toggling from old to preview versions confirmed the new method is significantly better.
Viewing contact details, you will notice a tiny drop down arrow (1) that lets you toggle from the old way (G+ and personal contact data separate) and the new merged data format. (2) shows contact details Dean shares with people in his Circles. If you scroll further down, you will see previous email messages between yourself and that person. You can compose an email from here as well.
Search improved in a few ways. This search for “Aaron L” now reveals layers of results starting with my primary contacts, other contacts, and now global results.
Global results appear to match the information you would normally only find from G+ search including publically shared and “extended circle” shared data. Hovering on the left side reveals the option to add these people to your contacts or circles. So you can add someone as a contact without knowing any of their contact information. Oddly you can’t begin a hangout from this page yet while you can from their G+ page or from the separate navigation on the top left.
,If you have been using the trick to verify email addresses in Google Plus search then you will be happy to know that this has been added to Contacts. Simply type in the correct email and receive results like these. This works for both their primary or secondary email addresses as explained here.
Now you are able to add this person to you contacts and populate the email you have confirmed to message him or her.
Sadly, global search only appears to work for names as illustrated by the people named Pepsi.
Google Contacts has always been a huge advantage for Gmail users who like to keep the address books tidy. This is a big step to keep the advantages of circles alive as groups of people with data synced from social profiles, personal details, and message history. Let’s hope they get this one right and continue to improve with customer feedback.