Google Photos version 1.1 didn't come with much in the way of changes, and the tradition looks like it's holding true for 1.2 as well. But hey, sometimes we like minor tweaks just as much. So let's go over them, and then you can rush to grab the APK.
For starters, there's the ability to easily add individual photos to albums from the drop-down menu. Here's a before and after shot.
Left: Old, Right: New
And when you're inside of an album, you also have the option to set an image as the album cover.
You won't be able to stubbornly cling to the old Google+ Photos much longer (assuming people are doing that). The official Google+ account has confirmed that August 1st is the shutdown date for Google+ Photos. It won't be a huge adjustment for most users—the new Google Photos already has all your stuff stored and organized.
The new unlimited upload function in Google Photos is undeniably generous. But the old saying that your mother taught you, "if something seems too good to be true, it probably is," would seem to be in effect. Android Police has received reports from multiple users that photo uploads from the desktop and various mobile apps have hard data restrictions, suddenly cutting out in the middle of the upload process after users pass an unspecified data threshold.
The standalone Photos app was released to the public during last month's Google I/O conference, finally completing the separation with Google+ as rumors (and facts) had long suggested. While the new Photos app was widely accepted as an improvement in many ways, it also lacked many of the enhanced editing features that had made the old version so useful. Unfortunately, installing the standalone Photos app effectively hid access to the version built into Google+. That was probably a pretty good sign about what was to come. With the latest update to Google+, users who have stuck to the old version will be warned that it is not long for this world.
Google released the new Photos app at Google I/O a few weeks back, and this is the first significant version number change it has experienced since then. There doesn't seem to be much on the surface to justify the jump to v1.1. You can still grab the APK and install it now, though.
Google is very into this whole cloud thing, so much so that it's offering unlimited storage of high-quality images and video as part of the new Photos. If you've got all your stuff online, do you really need it locally? The new Photos app doesn't think so, and it can help you save some space.
A couple of days ago, Google Drive made news with an update that introduced a new, intuitive Drag & Drop implementation for easier file management. While that appeared to be the only significant change, a look under the hood revealed not only that the Drive team is about to fulfill one of the most often requested features, but it also answered one of the many questions about the fate of Google+ Photos after the split.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are necessarily speculative and based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even in the most cut and dried examples, there is always a chance that details may change or plans may be cancelled prior to the launch of a new feature.
Those Google+ users who often use the service for posting videos now have some exciting new tools. The automated enhancements for photos has been available for more than a year, and now the feature is coming to videos as well. Videos uploaded to the service that are flagged by Google's automated system can be enhanced with improved stability, color correction, and lighting enhancements. Improvements to sound for better voice quality are planned for a future update.
On the web, any video that's uploaded to Google+ will be analyzed by the back-end system, and users will be auto-alerted when any enhancements can be applied.
Google+, for all the criticism it has garnered from the "hip" tech crowd, has been an incredibly important product for the search giant since its unveiling back in 2011. Remember when you had to get an invite to join Google+? How far we've come.
But Google+ quickly became more than just Google+. The Hangouts messaging platform and, later, Google+ Photos were key leaps forward for Google in two areas where the company was arguably becoming stagnant. Google Talk, for all of the love it got over the years, was aging poorly, and Hangouts made for a much more modern, fully-featured (you know, aside from statuses) replacement with robust video and voice capabilities.
Update: Anime provider Crunchyroll has gained Chromecast support as well.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup will start next week, making this just the right time for WatchESPN and MLS Matchday to roll out their new ability to stream matches straight to Chromecast. You still need a cable subscription to enjoy any of the content, but the feature prevents having to reach for the TV remote and navigate that troublesome guide for the correct channel. Just fire up that app and poke that touchscreen the way we Android fans just can't get enough of.
Those of you who are lucky enough to attend the game in person can rest assured knowing that when you get back, Google+ Photos is now ready to let you toss up those photos and recordings you took up onto the big screen as well.