Google adds new features to Google+ mobile app, renames Huddle to Messenger

Google today announced it is now open to everyone and released crucial updates to Google+ mobile app on Android, which will soon be added to its iOS version too. Some of the most important additions have been the ability to participate on Hang Outs on phones with a front facing camera, updating status via SMS in India and US and renaming Huddle to Messenger. Hit the jump to continue reading.

Hang Outs on Android will be available on all smartphones with a front-facing camera running Android 2.3+. Users will also be able to receive notifications, update their status and respond to group messages over SMS. They just need to add their cellphone number in their Google+ profile. The feature is only available in India and US at the moment.

Just like Twitter and Facebook have the option to include others using ‘@username’, Google+ users will be able to do so using ‘+username’. Users will also be able to update their profile picture directly from their smartphone. And just like Facebook announced last week, users will be able to choose what notifications they would like to see on their Google+ page. Google has also renamed Huddle – the group chat feature – to Messenger. Users will also be able to share pictures over Messenger. The official press release follows:

The Google+ project has been in field trial for just under 90 days, and in that time we’ve made 91 different improvements (many of which are posted here). Google+ is still in its infancy, of course, but we’re more excited than ever to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. Today we’re releasing nine more features that get us that much closer.

+Hangouts: more places, more people, more to do

Hangouts uses live video to bring people together, face-to-face-to-face. And from day one, the community has shaped and stretched the feature in amazing ways—from cooking classes togame shows to music concerts. We’re determined to keep this momentum going, and to keep providing new ways to communicate in-person, so we hope you enjoy this week’s round of Hangouts improvements.

92. Hangouts on your phone
In life we connect with others in all sorts of places, at all different times. And the connections you make unexpectedly are often the ones you remember the most. We think Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialize in the real-world, so today we’re launching it on the one device that’s always by your side: your mobile phone. To get started, simply find an active hangout in the Stream, and tap “Join”:

Hangouts currently supports Android 2.3+ devices with front-facing cameras (and iOS support is coming soon). The new mobile app is rolling out to Android Market today, so you can start hanging out at any time, from just about anywhere.

93. Hangouts On Air
Google+ users already use Hangouts to create intimate onscreen experiences—with family membersprayer groups, even people with certain medical conditions. But sometimes you want to speak to a large audience, or alternatively, view as a spectator. In these cases a public broadcast is what’s needed, so today we’re introducing Hangouts On Air.

The setup is simple enough: just start a normal hangout, and you’ll have the option to broadcast and record your session. Once you’re “On Air,” up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual), and anyone can watch your live broadcast:

We’re starting with a limited number of broadcasters, but any member of the Google+ community can tune in. In fact: we’ll be hosting our very first On Air hangout with will.i.am on Wednesday night, September 21. For more information visit will.i.am’s or my profile on Google+.

94, 95, 96, 97. Hangouts with extras
Spending time together goes hand in hand with actually doing things together. Dinner with family can easily turn into movie night at the local theater, for instance. And running into old friends can inspire anything from photo sharing to vacation planning. Hangouts has always included a basic set of in-room actions (like group chat and co-viewing of YouTube videos), but we want to make it easier to do a lot more. That’s why we’re previewing some extras, including:

  • 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…)

The extras are still under construction, but we wanted to preview these features and get your feedback sooner versus later. So start a hangout, click “Try Hangouts with extras” in the green room, and let us know what you think.

98. Hangouts APIs
If field trial has taught us anything about Hangouts, it’s that the community is overflowing with creative individuals. So in the wake of last week’s Google+ API launch, we’re also releasing a basic set of Hangouts APIs. If you’re a developer who wants to build new kinds of apps and games (and who-knows-what-else), then you can find more details on the Google+ platform blog.

+Search: find the people and posts you care about

99. Search in Google+
You’ve been asking for it, and we’ve been busy building it, so today we’re bringing Google’s search expertise to Google+. Just type what you’re looking for into the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.

If you’re into photography, for example, then you’ll see other enthusiasts and lots of great pictures. If you care more about cooking, then you’ll see other chefs and food from around the globe. In all cases, Google+ search results include items that only you can see, so family updates are just as easy to find as international news.

With more than 1 billion items shared and received every day, we’re excited to see how search will connect people through their posts on Google+.

+Everyone

100. Anyone can sign up for Google+—no invitation required.
For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal. We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups. This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about.

Over the next day we’ll be rolling out all of these features globally. In the meantime, you can check out what’s next in Google+.