September 20, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
After several months of people begging for Google+ invites and users speaking endlessly about the merits of Facebook vs. Google Plus, the doors to Google’s hot social network are finally open. Anyone, anywhere, of any age 18 or higher can now access Google Plus. He or she can also use a young but rapidly growing Android app that received many new features today.
We’ve already mentioned that users can join Hangouts from their Android 2.3 or higher devices. As suspected, it turns out that people can only join a hangout while using the Google+ Android app, not start one. Users will be able to interact with friends on the desktop, but at least one person must start the conversation in order for others to join.
Aside from the ability to use Google+ Hangouts from the phone, a great deal has been added or fixed in the latest version announced by Google. Here’s a quick rundown of what to look for. Be sure to download the Google+ app from the Android Market.
I’m sure you’ve been annoyed by the notifications system that either doesn’t work, gets repetitive, or updates you on insignificant things. A few bugs have been addressed to improve performance, and you can now control what types of activities warrant being notified.
From the Google+ app, go to Menu > Settings > Notification settings. Then check any or all of the following settings that you wish to be updated on:
- Comments on a post after I commented
- Adds me (to circle)
- Wants to tag me (in a photo)
The Google Plus app is rather large (24 MB), but you can accommodate for that by moving the app to the SD card. Be forewarned that doing this will break support for the Google+ home screen widget, so only enable it if space is limited on your device.
From the Android home screen, go to Menu > Settings > Applications > Manage Applications.
Tap on Google+ and then select Move to SD card.
Google+ is becoming the new BBM
Remember those rumors that Google was working on a BlackBerry Mesenger-like device. Huddles took on that primary presence of group chat, and it became clear that G+ would be Google’s answer to BBM. That idea grew stronger today with the rebranding to “Messenger” and the ability to post photos in a Huddle (I’ll be calling it that for a while, sue me.)
Tap the little photo icon to the left of the message field and you’ll be able to easily take a picture or post from the gallery. (Bonus tip: New photos shared will upload automatically to G+ photos section if you have that feature enabled.)
It’s easier to find friends thanks to improvements to suggested people and public people search. Go to Circles and tap “Suggested people” to see Google’s list of folks you may be interested in following, but it’s a small list of folks you’ve already seen dozens of times on the desktop. If you’re looking for someone in particular, tap the icon in the top right corner, enter his/her name and select “Search public profiles” to get a list of people with that name.
- There were many other minor updates. One of them is the ability to change a photo profile directly from the Google+ application. (Go to your Profile and tap “Edit” to make the switch.)
- Mentions of names are much easier now. It use to be that someone would type “+A_” and email addresses beginning with A would appear rather than people beginning with A. It’s now much easier to tag/mention someone in your post.
- Long-press on an item to get the option to Share, +1, or mute that post. An upcoming update will make it possible to tap once and bring up a drop-down menu similar to what Plume does.
- UPDATE: Playback user uploaded videos (not just YouTube videos) in your stream and share videos that have been uploaded via Instant Upload (via +Natalie Villalobos)
And if you’re still new to Google Plus, our original guide to the app has some things that still apply and remain interesting, so check it out.