Google’s been pretty busy in the past few days updating almost all its major Android and iOS apps with some significant feature additions, and there’s no way the company was going to leave the official mobile client of its dedicated social network, Google+, out in the cold. In fact, big G seems to have reserved the biggest update of the season for it. The latest update to Google+ is aimed at web, Android and iOS users, and it covers no less than 24 different features, with each platform getting its own share of goodies in one way or the other. So fasten your seat belts and get ready to learn in detail about the various features that the latest Google+ update has in store for all of these platforms.
New Features For Web
While the service’s official mobile clients get the lion’s share of the overall update, web users can relish the introduction of several handy features too. The minimum bandwidth requirement for initiating hangouts with up to 10 people has been lowered to 150 KBps only. Moreover, guests can now be invited to events from the Google+ Events screen by just forwarding them the relevant URL. Your guests will then be able to RSVP and optionally, even inform you about the number of other guests they may be bringing along. The Hangouts On Air feature now offers an even better broadcasting environment by automatically hiding the filmstrip view of faces to let users avail maximum screen space available for video conversations. Also, you now have the option to duplicate events in order to quickly create fresh ones based on the previously created ones with similar attributes.
Let’s now check out the changes this update brings to the official mobile apps of Google+ for Android and iOS.
New Features For Android
This update bumps the official Android variant of Google+ to v3.3 and the iOS version to v4.0. Both variants share several features in common, the biggest of which remains the option to search, explore and join the newly introduced Google+ Communities - a Facebook Groups-like feature where you get a chance to interact with worldwide users who share the same interests as yours. As with all other core Google+ goodies, the Communities feature can be accessed directly from the navigation bar.
You can now subscribe to select Google+ circles to receive notifications regarding their activities on the network. To access this particular feature, make sure that you are currently at the app’s main screen. Tapping Menu > Subscriptions will allow you to select the required Google+ Circles from the list. Other features shared in common by the Android and iOS variants include the option to select appropriate time zones while creating events, and the ability to edit your profile on the go right from the mobile app.
Let’s now turn our attention to the new Google+ features available exclusively to Android users. Firstly, there is the option to upload full resolution photos using the app’s Instant Upload feature. The maximum available free cloud space for all such photo backups is 2.2GB out of the total 5GB that each registered user gets. Should you opt to avail this option, you’ll be required to navigate to the Instant Upload > ‘Set upload size’ option via the app’s main Settings screen.
In my personal opinion, the best feature of the entire update has to be the Android app’s ability to allow full-screen views of your Photo Spheres – the high resolution 360-degree panoramic images that can be captured using the Android 4.2 camera app. Better yet, you don’t even have to be using the latest Android 4.2 in order to view these gorgeous panoramas on your device, since the option is being offered to all Android devices running 2.2 froyo or higher. Needless to say, in order to capture these panoramas, you’ll still have to rely on the Photo Sphere image capturing mode that was introduced in the Android 4.2 camera app.
Speaking of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, if you’re one of the lucky few users of this latest version of the OS, you can now install the Google+ widget on your device’s widget-supported lockscreen, complete with the option to manually refresh the widget’s content, switch between posts, and unlock directly to the Google+ app itself.
Among other Android-exclusive features of the update, you get a chance to express your present mood on your timeline by selecting an animated emoticon image from dozens that are now available, each depicting a different emotion. All you need to do is hit the Mood tab on the new post bar at the bottom, select the relevant mood emoticon, complete the post with other relevant information, and share it on your timeline.
If you are fond of enjoying GIF animations on your Android device, you will welcome the app’s support for the popular animated image format. While the conversation cards of GIF-containing posts remain static, tapping the post itself lets you view the images with complete animations. The Android app now also supports integration with Google Now, with reminder cards for you to easily and instantly send birthday wishes to your loved one.
New Features For iOS
iOS users have quite a few unique enjoyable features at their disposal as well, such as a brand new UI for conversation cards and post composition. The visual stream design has been revamped, and the option to discover new users and topics using the app’s ‘Find People’ option is surely going to help you find plenty of content that interests you.
The photo viewing experience on iOS has also been refreshed. You can now swipe through photo albums inline to explore the entire strip. Tapping a photo will display it in full screen where the app will itself apply the pan, zoom and scale effect to present your images in the best possible layout.
All-in-all, this is a massive update to Google’s social network and its apps for both the supported mobile platforms, and it takes the already feature-rich experience offered by the service to new heights. If you aren’t already on Google+, this is the right time to start using it so go ahead, visit the Google+ website, download the corresponding mobile app for your platform, and join the club!