One of the most appealing things about Google+ is the Hangouts video conferencing feature. It lets you conduct impromptu video conversations with up to ten people with just your connected computer and a webcam and microphone. Nothing to install or subscribe to (it’s a free service) and it works very well.
I’ve done more than a dozen of these from a business perspective – including a number as FIR video interviews and panels – and they’re a terrific on-demand and informal communication tool. While there’s no native recording feature (and I can’t imagine that’s something Google isn’t working on), you can record your Hangout session via a third-party program such as Camtasia to create a video, which you can then publish or share via commercial services like YouTube.
On Friday, I took part in a terrific Hangout discussion hosted and recorded by my podcasting partner Shel Holtz together with Stuart Bruce and Phil Gomes. For the first time, I connected and participated in the discussion using my mobile device, a Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone.
I used the latest version of the Google+ app for Android to join the Hangout that Shel had started (you can’t start a hangout yourself from a mobile device).
The screenshot shows what I could see on my phone’s screen – in this case, Phil’s fine features in the large image, and the Google+ avatars of my three co-participants at the top left of the screen. The black-ish rectangle you see on the right beneath Phil’s image is a small video of me as captured by the SII’s front-facing camera which, for some reason, wasn’t captured when I grabbed this screenshot.
I was really impressed at how good the overall experience was in taking part on a mobile device. I had my SII’s earbuds/microphone combo connected so I could hear everything with crystal clarity, and talk hands free as well. I did the Hangout from my office; my desk is very close to the wireless router so the wifi connection to the phone was max strength, something I’m sure helped a lot with the overall smoothness of the network connection.
As you’ll note if you watch the video recording of this Hangout, there’s quite a bit of image movement from me as I was holding the phone in my hand so every time I moved or shifted in my chair, the image suffered a bit. (Note for next time: find some way to prop up the phone.)
The Google+ app for iPhone is also good – check out the experience recounted by Marshall Kirkpatrick in the early stages of the Google+ Hangout rollout for mobile.
So you’re not restricted by location if you want to join in a Google+ Hangout – a supported mobile device and operating system plus a strong network connection and you’re good to go.