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Hands on: New photo features in Google+ challenge Facebook and Twitter

Jackie Dove | May 20, 2013
Google put a new spin on its Google+ social network with a no muss, no fuss set of automatic photo enhancement features. After setting up a few enabling controls, Google will curate, auto enhance, and attach special effects to your images.

Google put a new spin on its Google+ social network with a no muss, no fuss set of automatic photo enhancement features. After setting up a few enabling controls, Google will curate, auto enhance, and attach special effects to your images.

Updates to the Google+ service focus on photos for obvious reasons: Photos are the centerpiece of social networks, and Google wants a piece of that actionor to but it more succinctly, it wants to usurp as much of the Facebook and Twitter photographic advantage as possible. Google took the occasion of its I/O developer conference to inaugurate a number of initiatives to boost its photo sharing service and make it more compelling: the four major enhancements are Auto Backup, Highlights, Auto Enhance, and Auto Awesome. I took the new baby for a spin and lived to report the results.

The thing to remember about Highlights, Auto Enhance, and Auto Awesome is that they are enabled by default, so that there's no formal interface to evoke them. However, you can turn off Auto Enhance in order to see the original version of a photo. And you can choose to share whichever version you want.

Auto Backup
When Auto Backup is enabled, any pictures you shot with your iOS or Android phone are automatically backed up to the Google+ service and available for your eyes only when you sign into your account. From there, you can choose who you want to share them with.

After downloading the Google+ app on the iPhone, it takes a couple of steps to enable the Auto Backup feature. This is easy to set up and works swiftly and flawlessly. Every shot I took on my iPhone showed up on Google+ within a few minutes.

You can use it to back up an infinite number photos at 2048-pixel tablet resolution for free, or upload full resolution images to the free 15GB of Google Drive storage.

Highlights
A simple Web-based interface lets you batch upload photos and videos from your hard drive or from the mobile app for iOS or Android. To really do justice to the Highlights feature, you'll want to upload an entire shoot, otherwise the service doesn't have enough to images to choose from. Trying to upload hundreds of images at a time seemed to stall the system at first, but a more spritely 64 images uploaded promptly. For any image uploaded to your album, you can write a caption and immediately share it if you choose.

How does Google choose which photos to highlight? A new Google+ algorithm chooses the best images by eliminating those containing blur, poor exposure, duplicates, and recognizing famous landmarks and smiling people. It also recognizes your family and other important people in your life.

 

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