Google Photo’s free unlimited storage ending on June 1, 2021

For the longest time, Google Photos has been an easy photo and video management application to recommend because of a number of things.

Besides the machine learning smarts deployed by Google that make surfacing all images of you from half a decade ago drunk in campus dens or quickly coming to your rescue when you can’t remember when exactly something happened but you can remember objects in photos you took or even the places, Google Photos has, for the last half-decade, offered to store photos and videos shot by users on their mobile devices for free.

That, in itself, has been a very big draw, especially for many of us that don’t care about storing our photos and videos in the highest possible resolutions that we took them in. With Google offering to compress photos to no more than 16MP and videos to no more than HD quality, Photos has been a no-brainer. I mean, who, in their right mind would leave behind such and pay for storage elsewhere?

Now, from June 1, 2021, all of that is going away.

“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. To make this transition easier, we’ll exempt all High quality photos and videos you back up before June 1,” Google notes in a policy update that also affects other products such as Gmail and Drive (including apps like Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard files).

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In an email to Google Photos users, Google states that it will be launching a new storage management tool on the effective date (June 1, 2021) to help users wade through their stored content and identify any “dark, blurry, and otherwise unwanted content” and delete it in order to save on storage.

Additionally, users that will find themselves needing more storage immediately after June 2021, which Google estimates will be about 20%, are advised to explore any of the Google One storage plans which start at Kshs 200 per month for the base 100GB storage and going all the way to Kshs 15,000 per month for the top tier 30TB storage.

It is worth noting that, as the statement quoted above notes, photos and videos backed up in “high quality” before June 1, 2021, won’t count towards the standard 15GB storage that Google offers users for Gmail, Drive and other services (now including Photos) but the same will be adjusted to eat into their allocated storage – or any purchased Google One plan – should they be edited.

It is also worth noting that these changes to Google Photos’ storage options won’t affect users of Google’s Pixel smartphones who will continue to enjoy free unlimited cloud storage and backup of their photos and videos in “high quality” for as long as they use their devices. It is, however, a step down from the offer extended to buyers of the early generation Pixel devices which saw them able to store all their images and videos in their original quality for free. [Update: that won’t be the case for users of future Pixel devices.]

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According to Google, Photos “is the home for more than 4 trillion photos and videos” and “a remarkable 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded every week”, something that is likely to have either broken the camel’s back as the company tries to keep up or made it see a monetization opportunity, something that market rival Apple has always capitalized on since day one with its constant push to users of its devices to adopt its iCloud service.

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