Google Photos is losing free unlimited photo storage

There’s a way to get around it, but you have to own a certain smartphone brand.

Google has announced a big change to its policy surrounding the well-known Google Photos app. Starting on June 1st, 2021, photos backed up to the app will no longer be stored for free and will count towards your cloud storage limit through Google Drive. Up until now, the company has provided free unlimited storage of “high-quality” (a.k.a. compressed) versions of your photos, but much like “original quality” photo backups, those too will now eat up your Google account’s available storage.

The change occurs five years after Google made a giant splash with the new Google Photos app. By promising unlimited photo storage, the company was able to pull in millions of downloads of the app on both Android and iOS in a short period of time. Now, though, that appeal is generally gone and replaced with the ability to back up photos to your Google account, period.

Granted, any photos you’ve backed up to your Google account so far won’t count towards your storage limit. By default, all Google accounts get 15GB of space through Drive, and you can subscribe to a Google One plan to get more. I pay $3 a month for 200GB of storage, and I recommend you do the same because if you’re like me and you take a lot of photos, you’ll eat into that 15GB pretty quickly.

That being said, there is a way to get around this limitation, but it involves buying a new phone. According to Google, all Pixel phones will still get unlimited “high-quality” backups of their photos. Whether this is welcome news depends on whether you own a Pixel phone or intend to switch to it. From a marketing perspective, it’s an enticing offer for sure, but I don’t know if it’s enough for someone to completely swap their smartphone.

Of course, Google is trying to not make a big deal of this. They claim 80 percent of users take three years to fill up their 15GB limits. They also compare the 15GB offering to Apple’s measly 5GB you get with iCloud by default. And to help with the transition from unlimited storage to very-much-so limited storage, it’ll give you options to delete photos you don’t want and send you alerts when you approach your limit.

In addition, Google is also now counting files in Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard toward your storage limit.

Like I said, this change doesn’t go into effect until June of next year. That should give you enough time to prep, even if it means switching to another photo storage app. I’m sticking with Google Photos since I have multiple Pixel phones, but if you don’t own any, you’ll wanna consider subscribing to Google One. 15GB may seem like a lot at first, but the more photos and videos you take, the quicker it’ll fill up.

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