Google Photos Is Testing A Sharing Menu That's Actually Worth Using

Google is rolling out a phased test that sees the sharing menu inside of Google Photos redesigned to offer a more condensed design that takes up less of the screen. The new design also sees the contacts element that would often cause lag refined and replaced with a universal search function to align it with what is seen in Google Maps.

Background: The sharing menu in Android remains one of the worst uses of white space on the platform. In many apps, the menu that appears right after hitting the share button is just a grid of apps where that content can be pushed. In some places, like Google Maps, the layout is implemented much better in a compact and refined manner that sees a good use of the space and the menu not take over your entire screen. This much faster design seems to be the way forward until Google completely redesigns things in a future version of Android and it appears Google Photos is the latest to get the new sharing menu.

With Google News being the first app to see the design at Google I/O 2018, the grid of icons that you're used to seeing is now replaced by two carousels to provide a more compact view. The subsequent result is that the menu is now shorter so takes up less screen real-estate, which allows for the media on the screen to remain a reasonable size. In addition, the new sharing menu is considerably faster since less time is spent waiting for the contacts and app sharing features to load. Instead, you'll now be presented with a search box where you can manually type a name, number, or email address, with a "more" button at the very end of the carousel to open a larger menu. On the lower carousel are the usual buttons to create a sharing link and assign the media to a shared album followed by a variety of apps.

Impact: The smaller share menu now allows pictures taken in portrait to take advantage of the larger available screen space, while those taken in landscape are cropped into a square, as shown below. It's not completely a deal breaker and certainly is an improvement over what was there previously, but may cause some landscape pictures to look odd when sharing. The updated design appears to be in A/B testing with some seeing the re-design already live in the Google Photos app while others still have the old design. Given the new look share menu is already part of Google News and Google Maps, Google seems to have already committed to the design so expect it to hit your Photos app shortly if it hasn't already done so.

Redesigning the sharing menu recognizes the move towards taller aspect ratios that OEM's have moved to in 2018. By pushing down the contextual menu to the lower third of the screen, it allows the content to remain front and center to let the user see what they are sharing. Google has been gradually introducing small design tweaks to its apps, which has also seen Google Contacts get a dark mode. It's not unusual to see Google A/B test new features in its apps and, while some features may disappear as quickly as they appeared, the new sharing menu design now coming to Google Photos seems like its here to stay.

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Dan Bartram