Make no mistake, Google+ is gunning for Facebook. When a third-party app is beating most of your own apps on the Android Market, it’s hard not to. But with the latest addition to the ever-growing featureset of Google+, there’s one more important distinction between the two networks. You can now switch from a textual chat or comment interface to a live Hangout video chat at any time from a status update or post, whether it’s on the web or the Android app. Beatboxing is not compulsory.
Updates to the On Air service are only going out to celebrity accounts at the moment, but the full interface should trickle down to use commoners soon enough. It integrates live hangouts in a broadcast model, sort of like a mobile version of Ustream. Videos can be recorded and posted to YouTube – so all the annoying kids who liveblog from their bedrooms will be doing it from everywhere now.
And for those with an older phone or computer, or who just want to avoid the frequent “up the nose” shots of front-facing cameras, you can now dial in to a hangout from any phone number. Connections in the United States and Canada are free, while international rates are “super, super low,” the same 2-15 cents-a-minute rate that Google Voice uses.
Finally, Google+ Hangouts has added some festive fun, in the vein of the new Androidify options. For December only, you can add a set of antlers and a Rudolph nose. It looks like this feature is only for desktop users, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.