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Google+ (Android) review: Google+ still beats Facebook's mobile app

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With recent additions to Google+ for Android, you get a few more ways to enhance your photos that you didn't always have. Now, you'll be able to enter an edit mode and use the buttons at the bottom for quick edits. The Enhance button automatically color-corrects and brightens up your image; it worked pretty well in my testing, but you always have the option to go back to the original if you prefer. The Crop screen lets you freely set the cropping area by dragging handles on each side of the image, or you can have it crop a part of your photo to a perfect square. There's also a rotate button for one-touch 90-degree rotations.

The most exciting addition to Photos is the capability to add filters and frames to your photos. You get nine filters to choose from, and and you can cycle through variations for each by tapping the filter button again. Another button at the bottom lets you switch to Frames, giving you 11 different treatments to choose from along with variations that you cycle through by tapping. Photo filters were already a part of the iOS version of Google+, but the frames are something new to the Android version exclusively.

One thing that was already great about the Google+ app is that it includes an Instant Upload feature, which automatically backs up pictures and videos taken by your Android 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 superconvenient feature that should be taken advantage of.

The Communities section lets you manage the news items and hobbies you follow. You can share communities you like with your friends or invite them to the community directly. You get display counts for unread messages in your communities, and the moderation tools have been improved as well.

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.

If you like, you can set the Google+ app to automatically back up your mobile photos to a private album in the cloud. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

Hangouts replaces Messenger
With Google's standalone Hangouts app now in wide circulation, the Messenger function has been completely replaced by a Hangouts button in Google+. Tapping the button seamlessly pushes you over to the Hangouts app or, if you don't have it installed, to the download page in the Google Play store.

Overall, the Google+ app provides an excellent way to interface with the Google+ social space while on the go, whether you're on a smartphone or tablet. The newest version looks beautiful and runs smoothly, and extras like photo tools and location sharing make it a tough social networking tool to beat.

My only issue at this point is that photo functions of the app can be a little confusing. While the Photos button in the sliding navigation bar brings you straight to your albums, a seemingly redundant Photo button on the bottom of the screen inexplicably bring you to a photo picker. The user experience here is obviously wrinkled, but it's not a major issue that will affect your regular usage. In the end, whether you're a regular Google+ user or you're just interested in the app's photo-editing or auto-upload features, you don't want to miss the Google+ app for Android.

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