Hangouts gets SMS support, more as Google+ laps up photo, video updates

Google+ action
Strobe effect with Google+ Auto Awesome Action

Google often rolls out updates en masse, and today was no different as it introduced 18 features to its social media platform, Google+. Hangouts, the Talk replacement Google made official at IO, is seeing a handful of enhancements as well.

We'll start with Hangouts - among the additions to the Android app is SMS support, or the ability to send and receive a message without having to exit and enter a new app.

Location sharing has also found its way to the app, letting users message a map of their current coordinates with whomever they're hangin' with. A simple tap of the place button on the bottom of the app will input a map into the convo stream.

Google Hangouts

And because GIFs rule the world, animations will now play inline. All these add-ons will be available in the coming days, according to Google.

Now On Air

For those using Hangouts On Air, a few new features are entering to the mix, including the ability to schedule an H.O.A., dedicated watch pages, and a Control Room function with eject and remote mute.

On both the mobile app and desktop version of Hangouts, users will notice (or maybe not, since it's automatic) that webcam lighting during video calls will be much improved. Conversations in either mode will now take up the full screen too.

Look for the video calling features to land in a few days with On Air's improvements rolling out in the "next few weeks."

Google+ photo and video improvements

Call it the quiet creep, but Google+ now has 540 million active users across Google with 300 million active users participating within the core social experience itself. Photo uploads have hit 1.5 billion a week, with momentum increasing. Google has seen a 20X increase in video uploads to boot.

Those are respectable numbers for a social media service generally written off as forgotten/useless/not Facebook.

Photos and videos are clearly an area Google wants to own with Google+, and to that end it's introducing a number of image-related enhancements.

Auto Awesome, also unveiled at Google IO, is being gifted with three new techniques.

Auto Awesome Action will create a strobe effect with an image, so there's a trail of the subject moving through space. Eraser lets users wipe out obstructive objects in a photograph. It takes a sequence of photos, say of your friend in a busy intersection in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and removes cars and pedestrians to create a clean image of your ami.

Google+ Erase

Erase(r) all these photobombers from your Google+ pic

Lastly, Movie pumps out highlight reels from your photos and videos and automatically puts in effects, transitions and music. During a presentation to introduce the new features, Google SVP Vic Gundotra demonstrated how users can choose different soundtracks, trim clips, set length of time and add different filters to customize their mini movies.

There is a twist with this Movie, however. According to Google, the feature works on "certain devices with Android 4.3+." All the other app features are widely supported and will be available this week (and for some even as early as today), but it looks like Movie won't see mass adoption anytime soon.

Oh, but there's more

Google has also improved photo search within Google+, upping the number of objects it recognizes to over 1,000. Searching for a photo of the epic snowman you built last weekend should be quicker with the smarter search function.

Users now have the ability to turn enhancements in Auto Enhance up or down, putting greater control in their hands when it comes to "improving" their pictures. And if users process their images elsewhere, Google is offering an exemption for the whole album.

Don't worry iOS users - Google hasn't forgotten about you. The Google+ app on the Apple-made system will soon see full size backups and background sync coming its way.

  • Read our full run down of rumors for the next Google phone, the Nexus 5.
Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.