Free unlimited WhatsApp backups on Google Drive may be about to end

The amount of data from WhatsApp that you can back up on Google might soon be limited, going by reports making the rounds online over the last few days.

Unlimited backups for media originating in the WhatsApp ecosystem was first introduced in 2018, and now, after almost 5 years, it seems the Meta-owned company might be having a rethink on the feature.

If this goes through, it will not be the first time Google has introduced a limit to a service that it offered freely in the past. Earlier, in 2021, the tech giant stopped offering free, slightly compressed backups of pictures to their cloud service. Starting 1st June of the year, all uploaded pictures began counting against the 15 GB Google account storage which also includes Gmail, Drive and Photos. To the company’s credit, images that had been uploaded before the start of June last year did not count against the quota.

The removal of unlimited backups for photos was interpreted as a blatant move by Google to force anyone needing more than 15 GB of space to pay up for Google One plans, to get access to more storage. Whether they have the same plan for WhatsApp backups will be interesting to see.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems like WhatsApp started preparing for this inevitability back in 2021. To give users more control of what they find important to be backed up, WhatsApp planned for a feature whereby a user will have granular control over their chat backups and will be able to archive important file types like photos, documents, videos and audio.

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Depending on what a user chooses, WhatsApp will provide a real-time estimate of the data based on the backup selection.

The planned removal of unlimited WhatsApp data backups to Google was first noticed by WABetaInfo when going through the latest beta from WhatsApp. Buried in the code, there were a number of intriguing strings that the app will use to notify a user about the changing requirements.

“Google Drive backup changing” will be the first message to inform users of the new policy, while the other strings captured from the WhatsApp beta code include, “Google Drive almost full” that will definitely be displayed once a user nears the limit, and “Google Drive limit reached” when you ultimately reach the limit.

Once you have reached the limit, which WABetaInfo believes will be 2 GB, any more data backed up will start counting against your 15 GB storage quota.

2 GB for purely chat conversations is substantial space and will take a long while before anyone comes close to filling it. However, throw in a few photos and videos and this space can be quickly filled up.

Given WhatsApp’s image compression, most people I know prefer keeping pictures and images that they would need long term, out of the ecosystem in favour of sending them through other platforms i.e. Xender and Telegram where image compression is not as bad.

This basically leaves WhatsApp as a medium to share memes and other funny videos that I do not think people will be too disappointed if they were forced to delete some of them to create space for backing up conversations and other personal media that might have more sentimental value.

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Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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