United we Stand: Google's revamped social network, chat app unify most of its services

GoogleUnited we Stand: Google's revamped social network, chat app unify most of its services.

At Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference, the search giant announced some major updates. Over the years, the company has released new versions of Android at an alarming pace and manufacturers have failed to release updates on time.Now, the company has released major updates to its services without updating Android. From the company's search engine to its social networking website, most Google services have been revamped.

Hangouts (replaces Gtalk)

Gtalk, a chat application, was released around eight years ago. Known as Talk on Android phones, the service was popular, but growing increasingly irrelevant since the release of cross-platform chat apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Nimbuzz, and Hike. At I/O 2013, Google released Hangouts, a new messaging app that replaces Talk.

Go to the Play Store, search for Hangouts and press update. Once you open the app, the changes areattractive. The list of online contacts has been replaced with a list of recent conversations — much like WhatsApp. Hangouts also uses the swipe gesture to good effect, letting you switch between your most recent conversation and the list of conversations. It would have been better if you could swipe from one conversation to another, a great feature in the old Talk app. In each conversation, small icons with users' profile pictures can be seen. Tap the icon and you get a message: "User has read up to here." This is a smart way of showing whether a user is online or not. While the app is excellent, user experience on some older phones is not so great. Hangouts is a heavy app and freezes on phones with old hardware. In such cases, users can uninstall updates to revert to Talk.

Google+

Almost everyone who uses Gmail has a Google+ account, but most users don't actively use the service. That might just change because Google has integrated its social network into all its services. Want to post a review of an app on Play Store? You need a Google+ account. If you use Hangouts, you'll probably want to check friends' profiles which takes you to your contacts' Google+ profiles. While some users might feel that this forces them to use Google+, the truth is Google needed to unite its services and the company has used this opportunity to strengthen its social network.

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