Google Photos wants some of your money.
The service turns six years old and will begin its monetization quest next week, when Google becomes stricter on photo storage limits. The goal is to push users over the 15GB free limit that comes with every Google account so that they buy more storage space through the “Google One” program.
Google Photos launched with two photo storage tiers: uncompressed “Original” quality, which counted toward your storage usage, and compressed “High Quality” photos, which don’t count toward the limit. Starting June 1, all newly uploaded photos, even the compressed photos, will count towards the storage limit. Images uploaded before that date that don’t count against the limit will still not count. But with automatic uploading, it’s only a matter of time before shutterbugs fill their online storage space.
Google is adding tools to help you better manage your data under the “manage data” setting on the website and in the app. A usage estimator refers to past usage patterns to predict how much time you have left before you fill your storage space. A new “view and delete” section will point out large images and videos, screenshots, and any photos Google thinks are “blurred” (in my limited testing, this feature seemed…very finicky). This tool should now be available on the web and is slowly rolling out to phones as well. Google also renames the “High Quality” compressed photo layer as “storage saver”, which better reflects what the setting does.
It would be nice if Google used its machine learning magic to point out duplicate photos, but the company hasn’t done that here.
The Google One storage tier that Photos is now emphasizing is a 15GB limit that counts everything stored in your Gmail, Photos, and Google Drive. Subscribing to the Google One program will increase your storage limit for all three services. That’s especially useful for Google Drive, which, like Dropbox, lets you store anything you want through a cloud folder that syncs between your desktop computers. The Google One starter plan is $2 per month (or $20 per year) for 100GB of storage. You can also get 200 GB ($3 per month/$30 per year), 2 TB ($10 per month/$100 per year), or 30 TB ($150 per month). You can share any of these plans with up to five family members.
Now that Google has hooked users up, the company has been working on free options for Google Photos for a few years now. Google Pixel phone owners used to get unlimited original quality uploads, but that offer went away with the Pixel 4, and some older Pixels had their unlimited upload promotion expired. With this new restriction, Google gives Pixel owners unlimited compressed uploads, which is a small consolation prize compared to the pretty good deal they used to get.
Google Photos has also started locking new editor features behind the Google One paywall. Today, Google Photos’ machine learning-powered features like background blur and portrait light are only available to Google One subscribers or Pixel users.
About 80 percent of Google’s revenue still comes from advertising, but with these types of moves, the company hopes to diversify and get users to cough up a few bucks each month.