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Google tweaks Hangouts bandwidth options

Google+ continues to fly under the social media radar, but the web giant is still renovating the site, adding two new features to improve the Hangouts experience.

The functions will boost the experience for those in areas with low and/or unreliable connectivity, according to Google software engineer Tim Blasi, who detailed the changes in a Google+ post.

First, the site added a bandwidth slider in the top-right corner of the Hangout screen, allowing users to adjust their bandwidth preferences in real time, making it easier to keep video chats running, even in areas with poor connectivity, Blasi said.

An audio-only mode is now included, as well. By turning it on, users can send and receive audio only, "significantly reducing your bandwidth requirements," the engineer said. Other Hangout participants will see only the user's profile picture, but will hear them loud and clear.

Each function is available now, but will roll out separately, so some people may see one before the other.

"Very soon both features will be available to everyone, so give 'em a try and let us know what you think," Blasi said.

The updates come about two months after Google introduced a very low frequency version of Hangouts. Once enabled, the users need only about 150 KB of bandwidth to participate in a video chat.

At the same time, Google updated its social network's photos, now offering up to 5GB of full-size photo backups, as well as Android profile editing, and an enhanced Events experience.