Organizing online contact details for the people you know, from customer contacts and work associates to friends and family members should become easier with the latest updates to Google Contacts. The new Contacts interface provides tools for managing duplicate entries, accessing the latest available profile information and seeing the last few conversations you've had with the people on your list.
Google unveiled the new look and feel for Contacts Tuesday with an online preview and a post on the official Gmail blog. The updates should be appearing over the next few weeks. Google Apps customers, however, will have to wait a bit longer as the new look isn't yet available on Apps, "but we're working on it," according to Google.
Easy Merging of Duplicate Entries
Presented in a neat and easy-on-the-eyes layout, the new Google Contacts pushes your most frequently contacted associates to the top, rather than confronting you with a list of anyone and everyone you've ever conversed with on Gmail or Google Plus. Click on any name in the list, and you'll get a popup profile card with all the pertinent, Google-related details about that person: e-mail address, circles shared, work and home phone numbers, birthday and recent Gmail conversations.
Below the main contact information, you'll see links to the three most recent e-mail conversations or meetings you've had with each person, with a "See more" option for loading even more past discussions. As Google Product Manager Sean Purcell noted in his blog post, "(W)hether it's been two days or two years since your last conversation, it's easier than ever to pick up right where you left off."
A simple click on the "Find duplicates" link in the left menu bar of the main Contacts page also reveals a rundown of people who have multiple entries in your contact list. You can then hit "Merge" to combine those details into a single entry, or choose "Dismiss" if you don't want to change anything.
Other Changes Afoot
The new updates to Google Contacts are just the latest changes Google has been making lately to its various social tools. On Sunday, Bradley Horowitz, who was Google's Vice President of Product for seven years, noted in a post on his Google Plus page that he will now be heading Google's Photos and Streams products. Horowitz is replacing David Besbris, who was formerly in charge of all of Google's social products.
Many observers have taken this to mean that Google is splitting up Google Plus into separate, dedicated services, or even -- eventually -- killing off Google Plus entirely. As Fortune reported Monday, "Say Goodbye to Google Plus as you know it."
Since it was first launched in 2011, Google Plus hasn't come anywhere close to threatening the Facebook social networking ecosystem, which includes Instagram and WhatsApp. However, Google Plus features such as Photos and Hangouts have done well, which may explain why they are now being promoted as standalone products.