Google+ Announces Mobile Hangouts, Customized Notifications, Tons More

Google just dropped a metric ton of new features on Google+. So many, in fact, that they can’t fit them all in one blog post. Thankfully, you have a devoted Noisecast team to sift through them for you. Here’s the highlights: Hangouts have gotten a ton of new features, Google+ is now searchable, mobile notifications can now be customized, and perhaps most importantly, Google+ is now completely open, no invites required.

Hangouts is the centerpiece of today’s update. Chief among the new features is the ability to join any Hangout from your phone. Currently, only Android phones with front-facing cameras and Gingerbread are supported, though iOS support is promised “soon”. No word yet on whether there’s any restrictions based on connections. Suffice to say, though, if you’re on a 3G connection (especially on Verizon or Sprint), you’re going to want for bandwidth.

The improvements to Hangouts don’t stop there, though. Google’s also announced a new type of Hangout: broadcast. Hangouts on Air are being implemented for those times that you and up to nine of your closest friends need to be seen doing your thing by the entire internet at large. Handy! Though, for the moment, Hangouts on Air are only for “a limited number of broadcasters” (translation: you don’t get to play yet). Hopefully they’ll roll this feature out to more users later on.

If you read the above paragraph and thought “Man, this could be really useful for presentations or company meetings!” then two things: one, you’re boring. Two: you’re right! And Google’s thought of that, too. Hangouts with Extras brings a slew of new features to go along with your Hangouts. Straight from the horse’s mouth:

  • Screensharing: for when you want to show off your vacation photos, your high score, your lesson plan or whatever else is on your screen
  • Sketchpad: for when you want to draw, doodle, or just scribble together
  • Google Docs: for when you want to write, plan or present something with others
  • Named Hangouts: for when you want to join or create a public hangout about a certain topic (like fashion or music or sports…)

Hangouts has moved beyond simple video calling now. It’s become a productivity tool. A meeting ground with a toy box. If the goal is to create a social feature with plenty for people to play around with and engage on, these additions should be a big help.

Beyond Hangouts, Google’s also made several more improvements. Now, for example, everything on Google+ can be searched. Veterans of social networks know that sometimes feeds can get away from you. On Facebook, for example, it’s virtually impossible to track down a particular status update more than a month or so old, aside from simply scrolling down a profile, loading every update as you go. Google+ will now allow you to search anything that you have permission to see. Search results will encompass public updates, as well as whatever posts you’ve been given permission to see from people who have you in their Circles. Private posts will, of course, remain private and are not searchable.

On the mobile side, the Goog’s rolling out customized notifications. Particularly on mobile devices, unwanted notifications can be cumbersome. Mobile users will be able customize which notifications they get on their device, so your shade doesn’t get filled up every time someone decides to +1 something you also +1’d (seriously, why is that even a notification?).

Huddles is also getting a fresh coat of paint, in the form of a new name: Messenger. Along with the less-stupid title, they’ve also added the ability to share photos within Messenger. If you’re a Blackberry user with a tenuous grasp on the concept or subtlety, or just someone who’s moved on to a real smartphone platform (oooh, burrrn), here’s a hint at where this trend is going: BBM. Personally, I don’t get it, but unified messengers are becoming a trendy feature (see also: iMessenger, Facebook). They’re also the one thing left that Blackberries do well that others are still catching up on.

And of course, the cherry on top of this feature sundae? Google+ is now open to everyone. No invite required. So, if you’ve been waiting to get in, go sign up. I’ll see your mug in a Hangout.

Sources: Google Mobile Blog (1), Google Mobile Blog (2)

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