Google+ giving users 24 updates for the holidays

Android and iOS apps are getting new features, along with updated Events and Hangouts

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 14, 2012
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There are only 18 days left of December including today (if you have been waiting to get your shopping, I’d suggest you do it now, folks!). As a holiday gesture, Google+ has upped the ante on its list of holiday gifts for its users this season.

The social network was originally going to showcase 18 “treats to make sharing and communicating easier and more fun than ever,” but that number is now 24.

“While it was tempting to give away one Google+ gift a day for the rest of the month, we thought it'd be more practical to wrap everything together in one holiday package,” Dave Besbris, Vice President of Engineering wrote.

“This #seasonforshipping we’ve tried to think of a gift for everyone. Whether you’re an iPhone or Android addict, a budding broadcaster, or the resident party planner, there’s a feature for each of you in our last big launch of the year:  24 treats to make sharing and communicating easier and more fun than ever.”

So what goodies to Google+ users have to look forward to?


For mobile users, they will be able to edit their profiles on-the-go, have “an easier way to author content,” and a “subtle notice when there's new stuff to read," when they download the updated version of the app on iOS or Android.

They will also be to subscribe to mobile notifications from their favorite circles and interact with Google+ Communities on their phone or tablet.

Communities, which essentially act like Facebook groups, were introduced earlier this month. Users can create groups, either publicly or privately, regarding any topic, in order for people with similar interests to be able to come together to discuss their shared hobbies.

Creating groups is fairly easy: just go to Google+, select Communities on the left hand side, name your group, select whether you want it to be public or private, and start inviting people.

Some of the features incorporated into Communities include discussion categories to find the conversations users care about the most. Users can also start hangouts, and plan events with the other members of that group. 

Those using will have also access to full-sized back up to their photos, with up to 5 GB of storage, along with the standard size option, with unlimited free storage. Simply by turning on Instant Upload, photos will be saved to a private album on Google+.  For comparison's sake, the Dropbox iPhone app allows users to save as many files as their device can hold or as much as their Dropbox space allows. 

Google+ is also bringing photo spheres, which allow users to take 360-degree photographs, to mobile. Only users with Android 4.2 can create them, but anyone with Froyo or above can view them.

Android users are also getting animated GIFs, birthday reminders in Google Now, and a lock screen widget.

Those using Google+ on iOS will be able to swipe through multiple photo albums with their finger and then tap photos to view them full screen. The app for iPhone will now have “a subtle pan-zoom-scale effect to pictures in the stream.”

iOS users are also getting new conversation cards, which feature longer snippets, bigger photos. And comments that slide in beneath each post. 

Events and hangouts

On top of offering all these updates on mobile, Google+ has also made some crucial updates to some of its core features.

With Events, users are now able to send messages to specific guests, as well as see which of its invited guests can open the sent invitation. Guests can now be invited through Google+, or by sending the event URL in an e-mail or IM. Guests can RSVP to say how many other people they are bringing.

The service is more like Facebook events than Evite, which is a service all about the invitation. Google's advantage over Facebook is the integration of its other Google products, including Gmail and Calendar.

Google+ is also making it easier to plan multiple parties, by allowing users to duplicate their original event, to which Google+ wil; pull in all the important details.

Google+ is also updating Hangouts, which allows users to group chat. The bandwidth requirement has been lowered to 150 KB “making it possible to connect with friends even in parts of the world with extremely low bandwidth.”

And, finally, Google+ is also updating Hangouts On Air  by "creating a better broadcast experience,” by making it so that if only one person is participating, the "filmstrip" of faces will be hiding and the video will be expanded to fill the entire feed.

Whew! Writing that was exhausting!

Personally, I think that Photo Sphere is probably the coolest feature being added is Photo Sphere. I love the idea of being able to take 360 photos to really give other people a sense of being in a place, not just seeing one small part of it. 

The most useful update, though, is the ability to create and join Communities on mobile.

This is such an inherently social idea, it makes perfect sense to put it on mobile. Let's say that you go out and see a movie you think is amazing, but none of your other friends have seen it, so you can't discuss it yet. You can immediately go and try to find people who loved the movie too, see what they said about it and engage in discussions immediately. I think it would be even cooler if Google could somehow enable it so that people who have similar interests could even find each other nearby.

This is not even the complete list of features Google+ is gifting. The new Android and iOS apps are available to download now, and rest of the “gifts” will be rolled out in the next day or two.

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