It's been over a year since Google started testing topic bubbles in the then-called-Feed, and many months since that design rolled out as part of the rebranded Discover. In the time since, we haven't noticed any major changes in the interface and we had almost started believing that server-side tests may have stopped on the app. But no, they've been resurrected (perhaps they never even died?) and are back now thanks to a new Discover that sheds off its signature topic bubbles.
The end result is a more compact feed of articles, which we don't mind all that much. The wasted space that we didn't like when topic headers were introduced is gone, so you can see and read more on one screen. The overflow menu that presents more options (such as hide this story, not interested in this topic/provider, etc...) is dropped down to the bottom right of the card, next to the more/less selector.
Left: Discover UI with interstitial topic bubbles. Right: New UI in testing, without them.
The main loss in this design is the lack of a way to access topic pages. Google had focused on the ability to delve more into any topic when you tap those bubbles, but with them gone, there's no way to open that page anymore. The topic still shows up in the menu, but you can't tap it to get the dedicated page with more articles. If Google wants to roll out this design, perhaps it should consider finding an alternative way to get to topic pages.
Left: Dedicated topic page with more articles. Right: Can't access that with the new UI.
The new UI began showing up in April, but now many users report seeing it too. It's not fully rolled out though — I still don't have it on any device, despite being on the latest Google app (APK Mirror).
This new compact interface without topic bubbles is rolling out to devices now. I have it on my Pixel 2 XL and Huawei MediaPad 8, but not my OnePlus 6T, though that's likely because I'm running the Discover feed through Nova Launcher there. The UI is the same as when we first covered it, i.e. there's still no way to get to the topic page, so that is gone.
- Henny Roggy,
- Shane Milton