Google unleashed a slew of updates to its Google+ social networking service at I/O earlier this month, and now a bunch of those new features are making it to the iOS app for Google+. The update follows the Android version, which arrived last week, and brings tons of new things to the version on Apple mobile devices, including Auto Backup, Highlight, Enhance and Awesome features for photos, hashtags that curate related content on posts in your stream, and new interactive Google Offers that will pop up in the mobile stream and that can be instantly redeemed.
The new photo features will probably be especially useful to mobile photographers, as they really do greatly improve the process of sharing online photos by automatically selecting your best pics using surprisingly accurate automated algorithms, and then applying various techniques to really make those photos pop. That could involve adding a slight vignette, enhancing contrast or correcting exposure, but it’s all done automatically using Google’s massive cloud computational power. In my experience with the desktop version at least, it does a job that’s remarkably similar to what the average enthusiast photographer might accomplish manually in something like Lightroom or Photoshop.
The other new stuff should help with content discovery, thanks to the introduction of Google’s smart hashtags, which are automatically assigned to posts based on both term recognition from the words used, and using image recognition to identify landmarks and other items in pictures. With that feature, Google seems to want Google+ to be more of an interconnected web than a place where friends share discretely with their circles and don’t venture much further afield.
There are a number of other features, such as the ability to edit comments and copy a post’s permalink to your device’s clipboard. But the Google Offer in-stream delivery is probably the most noteworthy in terms of how the average user’s experience will change. This essentially amounts to in-stream advertising, albeit of a kind that’s intended to give users instant access to offers relevant to their interests. The experience overall should be better, but it will still be interesting to see how people react to the arrival of Offers on the mobile browsing experience.
by Darrell Etherington