Google Adds A Social Layer to Android With People App, Social API

Google is strengthening the social layer in Android’s address book in the latest version of its OS through a new People app. Unsurprisingly, Facebook is conspicuously absent.

The new People app, which comes with the next version of the Android OS called Ice Cream Sandwich, connects everyone in a person’s address book to their presences on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. You can click into your contact list to pull up a friend’s latest status updates or shared content from other social networks.

Users can see a photo grid of their favorite contacts and see high-resolution photos of contacts in their background when they dial them. Visual voicemail is also linked up with friend’s photos.

There’s also a new Social API that returns raw contacts, large profile photos or recent activity to apps or social networks with user permission.

Because it owns a lower part of the mobile stack in the Android operating system, Google has more leverage than Facebook to integrate its own social network Google+ or those of third parties like Twitter or LinkedIn in phones that are Android compatible. Facebook, by contrast, has had to work on a one-off basis with different handset makers like HTC and INQ and SIM manufacturers like Gemalto to bring Facebook in a special way to a wide array of devices.

It will be interesting to see if the launch of Facebook iPad’s app signals a detente in Apple’s sometimes frosty relations with the company. If Google starts layering in social features in Android devices in a more compelling way, perhaps it will prompt Facebook and Apple to work closer together to come up with something competitive in iOS.