The update's live now in the Play Store. Get it!

What's in this version:

- New feature: Google+ Communities
- Support for full resolution photo uploads via Instant Upload
- Subscribe to any circle for notifications
- Support for time zones in Events
- Basic profile editing
- Integration with Google Now to send birthday wishes to friends
- Support for animated GIFs
- Express your mood via animated images in posts
- View and explore Photo Sphere images (Android 4.2+)
- Add the Google+ widget to your device’s lock screen (Android 4.2+)

Google has been pretty consistent over the last several months about bringing new features to its up-and-coming social network. Things like in-line Photo Spheres make it unique among the top players, while newer offerings like Communities help users feel right at home if they decide to ditch Facebook in lieu of G+. However, the two aforementioned features have been lacking on mobile since their implementation. Google's going to change that today.

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Later today, a pretty major update to the G+ app is going to hit the Play Store, bringing 18 new features to the mobile scene. What features, you say? How about a Photo Sphere viewer for starters (I'm most excited about this one). Oh, and Communities. And full-size image backups with instant upload - up to 5GB.

There's a bunch of smaller stuff, too; like on-the-go profile editing, improved content authoring, and a "subtle note when there's new stuff to read," among others.

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All-in-all, this is shaping up to be a very nice holiday treat from Big G - we'll let you know as soon as it's live.

[G+ Project Blog via Vic Gundotra]