With the latest update to the Google+ app, you now have some light photo-editing tools as well as a selection of filters. Whether you snap a fresh picture or pull one from your photo library, recently added tools include a button to quickly rotate an image, another to bring up onscreen cropping tools, and another to add filters to your image before sharing. But in the latest version of Google+ you also get Google's Auto Enhance button for a one-touch improvement to your images. In my testing it worked fairly well for bringing up the color a bit and auto-adjusting contrast.
If you want to make more-drastic changes to your images, you can select from several filters. You can touch a filter for an instant preview, then touch the same filter again to look at up to four variations. There's also a button in the upper right to let you quickly compare the filtered image with the original. What's great about the photo-editing tools is that there is always the option to go back to the original -- even when you have saved a filtered photo.
The Google+ app includes an Instant Upload feature, which automatically backs up pictures and videos taken on your iOS device. By default, these items go into the private "From your phone" album, where you can easily access and share them at your convenience. Of course, you can disable Instant Upload if you're worried about battery drain, but I think it's a convenient feature that should be taken advantage of.
In recent updates to the Google+ app, the Communities section got some feature additions so you can manage the news items and hobbies you follow. You can share communities you like with your friends or invite them to a community directly. You get display counts for unread messages in your communities, and the moderation tools have been improved.
Here, you can manage your own events as well as those to which you have been invited. With a single tap, you can start setting up a new event, complete with date, time, invitees from your circles, and even a location tag.
Hangouts and Messenger still evolving
As I mentioned above, Google recently released a standalone Hangouts app to replace Hangouts and Google Talk. If you select Hangouts in Google+, you'll automatically be redirected to the download at the App Store. Messenger still lets you chat with one or more of your Google+ connections from a single panel in the app, but also advertises Hangouts at the top of your Messenger screen. I suppose Messenger will probably stick around for quick chats in Google+, but Hangouts seems to be moving completely off the app. Perhaps Hangouts is being left as a menu item for now as a transitional phase while Google moves people to the Hangouts app, but we'll have to wait and see what happens in the coming months.
Overall, the Google+ app provides an excellent way to interface with the Google+ social space while on the go, and new photo-editing features and design tweaks to the app have definitely improved the experience. The interface has been cleaned up significantly, and all your most-used functions are tucked neatly into the sliding side panel. Even though the app is going through a transitional phase with the addition of the Hangouts app, the Google+ app still has plenty to offer on its own to make it a must-download for Google+ fans.
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