Google+ announced 18 new features on Tuesday, including multiple updates to Hangouts and additional tools for users who utilize the site for photographs. The updates will roll out in the “coming days,” according to a spokesperson.
Google+ also shared new user metrics, confirming that the site has 540 million active users if you count log-ins through Gmail and 300 million monthly active users in the stream (users who visit the website or app directly). Users also upload 1.5 billion photos per week, said Google VP Vic Gundotra.
Among the Hangouts updates, Google+ has added SMS to the messaging service, meaning users can message with others using text. The update comes on the heels of Facebook’s similar update to its Messenger app on Tuesday.
Other Hangouts changes include a new geo-location feature that adds a user’s location to a message with a single click using Google Maps. The updated Hangouts also supports animated GIFs.
Video Hangouts are now in full-screen HD for all devices, and Hangouts has new creative tools that let users focus or change the video view. Users can chat in black and white, or blur out the background using the new “Spotlight” feature so that the speaker is the sole focus of the conversation, said Gundotra.
On the photo side, Google+ continues to market itself as the best social platform for users who care about their photographs. One new tool, Auto Awesome Erase, removes other people or objects from your photos. If you pose on the street with friends and have strangers in the background or foreground, Auto Awesome Erase can automatically remove them from the image.
Google also made it easier for users hoping to search through their photo library. The site added more than 1,000 search terms that Google’s image algorithm identifies automatically, meaning users can search for terms like “apple pie” or “sunset” and Google will return relevant photos even if the pictures aren’t tagged.
Users will also be able to search in a similar fashion for photos shared by connections in their circles.
Google+ will support photo uploads in all sizes and resolutions so users don’t need to compromise the quality of their photos to upload, Gundotra said. For users with iOS devices, photos were only backed up if you had Google+ app open. A soon-to-be-released version of the iOS app will allow users to have full size backups and sync on at all times.
Google+ also unveiled a new Auto Awesome Video feature that automatically converts a user’s photos and video clips into a short movie, complete with an audio overlay. Once Google+ determines that a group of videos and photos were taken in the same time period, the site will automatically filter them to choose the most interesting, highest quality images and video to include.
Users can then manually edit the video if they want, changing the theme and filters, duration of the clips, or sound.
The updates will be available soon, once an Android update becomes available in the Google Play store, according to a spokesperson.
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