Earlier today at a livestreamed event in San Francisco, Google's SVP of Engineering Vic Gundotra announced a slew of new features slated for Google+ and Hangouts.

While we're still waiting for the Hangouts update that will enable SMS support, animated GIFs, and location sharing to hit the Play Store, which should happen in a few days, the Google+ update 4.2 is already live.

What's New?

G+ Photos is now Photos

After playing around with this version for a bit, I'm glad to report that the annoying and superfluous G+ Photos shortcut is now gone.

Update: Doh, G+ Photos is now just Photos, so you still have two shortcuts. Admittedly, this makes some sense and isn't as obnoxious-looking as G+ Photos (thanks, Russel Taylor!).

wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-42-33 wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-52-41 wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-41-57

Left: Google+ 4.1; middle, right: Google+ 4.2

New icon and menus

The cool new Photos icon we saw in the presentation is now official, and selecting the Photos menu item actually changes the slide-out menu altogether and exposes new filters, such as Auto Awesome, Videos, and Trash.

Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-09-46 wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-46-04 wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-45-49

Left: Google+ 4.1; middle, right: Google+ 4.2

Folder-based local photo browsing

Folder-based browsing has been added to local photos (thanks, Joe!):

Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-47-37

Auto Awesome Movie Maker

But probably the most important addition to Google+ 4.2 is the Auto Awesome Movie Maker, which can mash up photos, videos, and music into movies even Hollywood directors would be jealous of (OK, not really, but it's probably going to do a much better job than 95% of us could on our own).

As per Google, support seems to be limited to certain Android 4.3+ devices. We've confirmed one such device is the Nexus 4, which was used for all the screenshots.

wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-47-02 wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-47-38 wm_Screenshot_2013-10-29-12-59-35

Here's an example of one such movie:

New swipe animation

Swiping between photos in Google+ now uses the same animation as swiping through the app drawer instead of simple sliding (thanks, Faruk Ahmet!):

Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-52-52 Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-53-04

New photo sharing UI

Photos have a new slick slide-up sharing UI (thanks, Faruk Ahmet, for the spot!). Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to regular posts - you still have to go to the menu, copy the link, and share it manually. Oddly, if you tap on an image in a post first, then the new share UI is available. Can we have fix these inconsistencies please, Google?

Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-38-50 Screenshot_2013-10-29-13-39-03

Copy text option in posts

Posts now have a Copy text option. It grabs the text comment part for easy pasting.

Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-11-20

Copy text, Reply to, and Report options in comments

Comments also have the new Copy text option, in addition to Reply to comment. Flag as inappropriate is now Report Comment and has more options (plus the inconsistency in capitalization made me twitch). But yay for Reply to comment!

Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-25-54 Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-26-11 Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-26-22

New post UI for images and number of views

The elements in shared images within G+ posts have been moved around and now expose the poster's name as well as the number of views. Finally, you can share using the new share UI. Once again, unfortunately this UI is not implemented if you tried to share the post itself. Very inconsistent and odd stuff.

Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-55-08 Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-55-13 Screenshot_2013-10-29-15-00-06

Left: Google+ 4.1; middle, right: Google+ 4.2

Updated Notifications pane UI

The notifications pane UI has been updated to the light theme, and now looks cleaner overall. The Dismiss all button has been slightly tweaked, and now tapping it pushes down the previously seen notifications by default. Last but not least, Mr Jingles is now animated (thanks, Denham!).

Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-51-40 Screenshot_2013-10-29-14-49-37

Miscellaneous

  • Google+ now shows up as an option when you want to set an image as a wallpaper. Yeah, it's definitely gunning for the Gallery app and will likely replace it fully in the future.
  • I haven't been able to confirm yet, but I'm guessing the new Auto Awesome Action and Erase features are also live - time will show if these start turning up in my gallery.
  • On the search front, Google said it now recognizes over a thousand new objects, from "sunsets to snowmen."
  • The notification slide-out can no longer be dismissed by tapping outside the box - that's super annoying and something Google should fix ASAP (thanks, Faruk Ahmet!).
  • The YouTube tab that used to be present in user profiles is now missing. Odd.
  • Check out the new User Locations widget.
  • Animated GIFs start playing as soon as they scroll into view - you no longer need to tap them. Go #pixelpushing!
  • Originally Shared links now properly link to the post being re-shared rather than the profile of the person who originally shared it (thanks, Richard Davis!).

All in all, this is a pretty innovative update, which rejuvenates my excitement for the future of Google+. Google has shown time and time again that it's not treating G+ as yet another social network. Rather, the company is constantly pushing the limits with design and capabilities, especially on the mobile front, and it's exactly the kind of outside-the-box thinking we need in the space.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

File name: com.google.android.apps.plus-4.2.0.55778941.apk (Android 3.0+).

Version: 4.2.0.55778941.

MD5: 7874800094d6199704782b6ef669e28d.

Thanks, Keyan X!