Google launched a bundle of new features for its Google+ mobile apps this morning, focused on events, photos and Hangouts.
The features include beefed up events-organizing tools, tweaks to the social network’s popular Hangouts feature and a suite of changes aimed at improving photo quality.
“The updates are really refinements to core social features, helping people stay better connected [and] support for better photo uploads,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner.
“Despite the apparent large active user base Google+ still isn’t as popular as the other major social networks, but with these updates Google continues to improve Google+ functionality and push the service deeper into its own ecosystem as they attempt to keep users focused on Google apps and services,” Blau said.
On both Android and iOS, Google has beefed up its events features. Even organizers can email individual guests and see who’s opened the invitation. Users can also duplicating the original event to create a repeat and Google will autocomplete the relevant details. Guests are now prompted to RSVP with the number of people they’re bringing.
Hangouts, a feature Google has touted as one of the best of Google+, also got boosts on both platforms. Hangouts On Air now optimizes for performances by hiding the spots for participants’ head shots when there’s only one participant. In a nod to users “in parts of the world with extremely low bandwidth,” Google pared down the bandwidth needed to be in a Hangout once it’s enabled to 150KB.
Android users will see more improvements to photo uploading and viewing experiences. Users who turn on Instant Upload now get up to 5 gigabytes of free cloud backups of their photos in addition to unlimited free storage Google already offers of photos sized 2048 pixels.
Android users running the Jelly Bean version can now create 360-degree panorama images. Those with older operating systems can see but not create the panoramas. Android users can also indulge themselves with animated GIFs in Google+.
iOS users will get better thumbnails and longer snippets of preview text to highlight content in their stream. They can also swipe through multiple photos in an album inline.