Emerging Technology

Google+ and Hangouts upgrade announced ahead of Android 4.4 KitKat

Andrew Sadauskas /

Google has announced a major upgrade of its Google+ and Hangouts services ahead of the release of Android 4.4 KitKat.

The search and online services giant again confirmed speculation its Hangouts app for Android is superseding the original Android Messaging app by handling SMS, although users will be able to choose their default search app.

The upgrade also improves the video call capabilities of Hangouts, with full-screen sharing added across mobile and desktop devices, along with automatic adjustment for poor lighting conditions.

For broadcasters, the upgrade includes the ability to schedule discussions, create a countdown page for users to link to, and a control room to moderate discussions.

Other features added to the upgraded Hangouts app include support for animated GIFs and location sharing.

For its Google+ service, the company has announced a range of photo sharing upgrades aimed a competing with rival services including Flickr and Instagram.

Among the new features are a range of automatic enhancement features, including the ability to automatically edit people or objects out of photo backgrounds, adjust contrast levels and saturation, or automatically photo and video clip highlight reels with background music.

The iOS version of the Google+ will join its counterpart on Android in automatically uploading all user photographs in full-resolution to Google.

While the company claims 540 million active users on the service per month, the social media giant does not make clear how many of those users actually regularly use Google+ as a social network, rather than simply using an account to log in to other Google services.

In May, SmartCompany first reported speculation that Google was set to a new messaging service and app that will unify a number of its text, voice and video messaging products into a single service.

The news followed Microsoft’s decision to kill off Windows Live Messenger, formerly known as MSN Messenger, with the instant messaging service integrated into its Skype service.

Initially, while Hangouts superseded Google+ Messenger and Google Talk, SMS and MMS messaging was not integrated into the app.

However earlier this month, strong rumours emerged Google was planning to dump the standalone Android SMS app in favour of Hangouts handling text messages.

The news was all but confirmed soon after, when Google has an update to its official developer’s blog, effectively confirming rumours about a big change in how its forthcoming Android 4.4 KitKat operating system handles SMS text messages.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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