Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
- Google is ending free, unlimited Photos storage as of June 1, 2021.
- It says the costs of maintaining free service are too high.
- Pixel users can still upload free shots in high quality after June.
Google Photos won’t be the free-and-easy picture backup service it once was. As The Verge reports, Google has revealed that Photos will no longer offer free, unlimited storage at “High Quality” (that is, slightly compressed) to all users as of June 1, 2021. The pictures you take will count toward your Drive storage limit, and you’ll need to subscribe to Google One if you’re running out of room. Any photos and videos uploaded before that date won’t be affected.
Product lead David Lieb explained the end to unlimited free storage as necessary to “align the primary cost” of offering Google Photos while acknowledging the “primary value” of online storage for years’ worth of snapshots. It was becoming too expensive to offer unrestricted backups, in other words. The leader noted that users upload 28 billion photos and videos per week, and there were already 4 trillion photos on Google’s servers.
There will be exceptions. Pixel phone users will still have unlimited High Quality uploads after the June 1 cutoff. While that still puts a limit on original quality uploads, it does give you an incentive to buy (or stick with) a Google phone if Photos storage is a make-or-break factor.
Read more: Google One vs the competition
The company is also taking steps to keep usage in check, although they’re not always for the better. You’ll have new management tools to delete unwanted photos and keep to your free service, and Google will now estimate the usefulness of a storage tier in terms of time rather than raw capacity. However, Google also warns that it “may delete” photos if you’re inactive for two years or stay over your limit for that period of time. That’s not a guarantee Google will delete treasured memories (it will warn you first), but you’ll likely want to keep close watch over your usage.
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard data will also count toward your Drive cap.
The move isn’t surprising given the sheer volume of photos. Even so, it’s already sparking complaints that Google is trying to spur One subscriptions and creating headaches for people who counted on Photos’ free storage as a safety net. This might also drive some users into competitors’ arms. Apple, for instance, recently launched its own One subscriptions that bundle iCloud storage with services like Apple Music and TV Plus. People who aren’t deeply invested in Google’s ecosystem may decide that Apple One or other cloud storage offerings may represent better value.