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Google+ has a reputation for being a bit barren for many users. But it just made several upgrades that could improve the user experience. Now there’s the ability to schedule a Hangout On Air and backup photos via auto syncing for iOS.

While we don’t see Google+ becoming the most popular place to share photos, that hasn’t stopped the company from taking dead aim at the Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has long been the go-to place for so called frictionless sharing of photos with friends and family, but Google+ updates like backup syncing of photos on iOS devices could prove to be a streamlined way to manage an incoming photo stream.

Facebook, Instagram or Google+?

Additionally, Google+ can now recognize images that contain things like sunsets or beaches, for example, and then search for corresponding images. These two additions alone combined with the Google+ ability to define groups that particular photos are to be shared with makes it much more compelling as the go to frictionless sharing system for photos and videos.

Google now has 540 million people active across Google every month, Vic Gondotra, Google SVP of engineering wrote in a blog post this week. Of course, that’s a huge number, but it seems to be across the entire Google network, not just the Google+ social space.

There are also 1.5 billion photos shared every week on Google+, Gondotra noted, making for a much more rapidly expanding space.

Other photo updates include the ability to dial up or down how much the Auto Enhance feature does its job. That way minimally or maximally enhanced photos can be automatically adjusted just the way people like.

There’s also now the ability to share locations via SMS (above image). That way, someone doesn’t have to look up where they are on a map and then try to share a link. It can be done right inside the Google+ app.

Google+ Adds Scheduled Hangouts on Air, Backup Photo Syncing for iOS
Auto Awesome Action feature combines a series of images into one strobe effect photo.

Hangouts On Air Scheduling, Video Updates

On the video side, Hangouts On Air can now be scheduled, and a dedicated watch page can now also be set up. This is big for marketers because it looks like these  pages could be set up for campaign tracking. Webinars via Google Hangouts On Air might be much more attractive if that is the case. As long as the Hangouts On Air watch page is able to be tracked, it could make that feature much more attractive for that particular use case.

After a Hangout On Air goes live, there’s also the ability to moderate the conversation via a feature called Control Room. One pretty nifty video update only applies to a few Android 4.3 devices, and its called Auto Awesome Movie. Auto Awesome was launched as a way automatically improve images like picking out the smiling faces of people in a series of group photos and pasting them together for the best one.

Now Google has included videos in the Google+ app, and this feature will stitch together video and photo highlights from a stream of photos to make a little highlight movie. All these features are meant to help users wade through their growing stashes of images and movies, and Google clearly hopes that will be the way to encourage people to use Google+ even more.