Google Photos Will No Longer Offer Free and Unlimited Storage

Posted on November 11, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Google Photos with 24 Comments

Starting in mid-2021, Google Photos will no longer offer free and unlimited storage. The good news? Existing uploads are exempt.

“To continue providing everyone with a great storage experience and to keep pace with the growing demand, we’re announcing important upcoming storage changes to your Google Account,” Google vice president Jose Pastor announced. “These storage policy changes won’t take effect until June 1, 2021. However, we wanted to let you know well in advance and give you the resources to navigate these changes.”

For Google Photos, the news is bleak: Where the service now offers free and unlimited storage of “high quality” photos and 1 GB of “original quality” photos, it will soon move to a model in which all photos will be held against a 15 GB ceiling that is available across Gmail, Drive, and Photos.

“Beginning June 1, any new photo or video uploaded in High quality in Google Photos will count toward your free 15 GB storage quota or any additional storage you’ve purchased as a Google One member,” Pastor continues. “To make this transition easier, we’ll exempt all High quality photos and videos you back up before June 1. This includes all of the High quality photos and videos you currently store with Google Photos … We estimate that 80 percent of you should have at least three years before you reach 15 GB.”

Also starting June 1, any new Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, or Jamboard) files will also begin counting toward your free 15 GB of allotted storage (or any additional storage provided through Google One), Google says. As with Google Photos, previously uploaded files will not count toward storage, unless they’re modified on or after June 1.

Finally, Google is also instituting a new policy for accounts that are inactive or exceed their storage quota. Accounts that are inactive in one or more of the relevant services (Gmail, Drive, and Photos), or are over their storage limit, for two years may see their content deleted.

“We will notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action,” Pastor says, adding that you can simply visit your Gmail, Drive, or Photos service on the web or mobile periodically to avoid the account being marked as inactive.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Google Photos Will No Longer Offer Free and Unlimited Storage”

  1. helix2301

    I wonder if this might be the start of trying to move people to Google one cause it seems kind of pointless if you have unlimited photo storage to buy Google one

  2. waethorn

    Maybe Google is realizing that when you start censoring and alienating groups of individuals because you let advertisers and other financiers dictate your corporate and political ideology, the ad money starts to dry up when users inherently leave.

  3. sykeward

    I was initially irritated at this, but I like Google Photos and it's so ingrained into how my family shares photos that I have no problem paying the $1.99/month for the storage.

    What surprises me though is that future Pixel phones are no longer excluded from these limits and lose the unlimited photo storage as a feature (Google confirmed this to Android Central and Android Police). That kind of nickel-and-dime approach to what used to be a nice benefit of owning their hardware is a real shame. It's yet another sign that they're losing interest in it.

  4. Ajay213

    The jaded view - Google has built their people/animal/thing/whatever detection from photos so well they no longer need to curate billions/trillions of photos to test with. So now charge for it. ;) It's no secret Google is happy to give stuff for free as long as they get something from it (ie curate data).

    I do wonder if they are going to offer a free 'low quality' backup option, or it will move to strictly a paid service?

  5. Daekar

    Well, I knew this could happen someday, which is why Google Photos was always secondary. Like hell am I paying for another subscription service.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I can see why you expect Google to store an infinite number of photos.
      • cddouglas

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Google launched many useful services with the understanding that users got useful apps and services for free in exchange for Google getting access to almost unlimited user data. To now charge subscription fees for many services is somewhat unfair - Google wants it's cake (our data to use for marketing) and to eat it too (subscription revenue).

        I personally would rather pay subscription fees to Apple or Microsoft for storage and know they aren't also using my data to sell me stuff (I'm ignoring many of Microsofts sketchy actions here). :)

  6. markwibaux

    I guess 80% of Google user accounts don't utilise Google Photos at all. I can't see anyone who actively utilises the service being able to last "3 years" with only 15G of storage. Especially anyone who has a Google Home device with a display that is setup to show photos and therefore uploads most of their photos to the service.

    One thing I haven't been able to figure out is how you even tell how much space your current "High Quality" uploads consume in Google Photos. Only those images exceeding 16MP and uploaded in Original format show up in the storage utilisation report so there is no indication of the impact going forward.

    Personally, I have about 160G in my local server photos folder synchronising to both OneDrive and Google Photos so if I could see what that consumes in the service, then I would have a much better idea of the impact. Right now, Google estimates my free storage would last approx. 1yr. But with COVID restrictions for the past 9 months, photography has not been a heavily utilised function, so uploads have significantly dropped off.

    I guess starting in June next year I'll be adding yet another storage subscription to my collection. With elderly family setup with Lenovo SmartDisplay pulling photos from the service (been an absolute godsend during our total lockdowns on aged care facilities), it's not really a choice to be able to change services.

  7. saturn

    Wow, this is really disappointing news. From a business-making-money perspective, I understand it. I don’t personally use Google Photos myself but I can imagine this will become another added monthly or yearly expense for people.

    I wander how many of these paid subscription services can people afford?

  8. ben55124

    According to android central, if you own a Pixel phone, you're exempt from this. Can't find their source, so don't know how Google determines your Pixel ownership status -- i.e. if you owned one years ago or do you you need an active Pixel phone???

    • leoaw

      In reply to ben55124:

      "If you back up your photos and videos in Original quality, these changes do not affect you. As always, your Original quality photos and videos will continue to count toward your 15 GB of free storage across your Google Account. 

      If you have a Pixel 1-5, photos uploaded from that device won’t be impacted. Photos and videos uploaded in High quality from that device will continue to be exempt from this change, even after June 1, 2021. "

  9. Chris_Kez

    Wow, this is going to be tough. Google Photos has been my go-to app any time I want to find something in my archive. OneDrive has all of the photos too, but that app is way too clunky to be a dedicated photo viewer and search tool. Apple Photos only has my last few years of photos; I didn't want to pay to jump from 200 GB to 2TB of iCloud storage just to pull in the rest of my archive. But now that I'm at the 200GB limit anyway, and with the new Apple One family bundles, I'll be moving up to 2TB soon. I don't see myself dropping Office 365, so I guess that sadly leaves Google Photos as the odd man out. I was already thinking about a home media server for all my old CDs, DVDs, and as a hedge against losing digital access to stuff; I think this might push me over the edge. I guess have six months to dust off those plans for a NAS and to reacquaint myself with Plex.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Agree. I back up to both OneDrive and Google Photos. I have a couple of Google displays around the house, plus Chromecasts, and we like the photo display feature on them.

      OneDrive is OK for photos, but it's nothing like the Google Photos service... The other day I was telling someone how we found a frog in our house the other day. I loaded the photos app and searched for frog - there were my photos of it, plus the ones I took the previous time I had a frog in the shed, etc (it's nice to see frogs around our house now instead of toads). Amazing tech.

      I suspect I'll just end up paying Google. I wonder - I already pay for Youtube premium (initially to get Google Play Music, but also good to have no ads in YouTube). Would that subscription help here at all?

  10. sammyg

    YouTube, the ONLY Google product I use and barely use at that.

  11. kdjones74

    Today, I use both Google Photos and OneDrive to back up from my phone (Pixel 2). After this change, I don't think I'll see much difference since OneDrive will still back up high quality resolution?

  12. murray judy

    Hope no one is surprised. Everything with Google is ephemeral.

  13. derekabraham

    Do we have any more services that provide free unlimited storage now that Google, Apple and Microsoft have all moved to paid tiers.

  14. wbhite

    Not sure how this will affect me after the change, but it's a bummer. I've never used Google Photos to actually print anything (do we still do that?) so I don't need the original or high quality, but the machine learning aspects are nice. If anyone is interested in my current setup, which works great if you don't mind a few more cogs in the process, here it is:

    * Take a photo on my Pixel

    * Dropbox app on my Pixel uploads it to the Dropbox "Camera Uploads" folder

    * I can delete anything I don't want to keep forever from that folder

    * I run a script on my PC that moves the files from Dropbox to a OneDrive folder

    * The Google Uploader (or whatever it's called now) monitors that and uploads those files to Google Photos

    The "on this day" and similar features, in addition to excellent search features (e.g. "dogs" so I don't have to tag every damned thing) are awesome but I could live without them if I had to abandon the service. I'd simply disable/uninstall the Google Uploader app on my PC and move on with my life.

    On another note: Remember when OneDrive was "unlimited?" I remember.

  15. behindmyscreen

    well shit.... The only reason I use them is because of my google home hub. I have Apple now I need to get something that will display my photos from there.

  16. shawnthebeachy

    "Accounts that are inactive in one or more of the relevant services (Gmail, Drive, and Photos), or are over their storage limit, for two years may see their content deleted."

    So if I'm reading this right, if I only use Photos for backup but don't use my Gmail account, I may now be spammed with notifications that they want to delete my data?

  17. safesax2002

    Didn't see that coming /s

  18. johnclark

    Guess I'd better download and backup my vast collection of memes elsewhere

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