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Google's Magic Editor might soon be free for all, with a major catch (APK teardown)

A Google One subscription might no longer be necessary to access Magic Editor features.

Published onApril 9, 2024

Google Pixel 7 Pro Magic Eraser
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
  • Code hidden within the Google Photos app suggests the Magic Editor tools could soon become available to users without a Google One subscription.
  • The change may include a “metered saves” system, which would allow a limited number of free edits per month.
  • Magic Editor offers impressive capabilities like changing skies, seamlessly removing objects, and creative image manipulation.

Google’s Magic Editor, the AI-powered suite of photo editing tools, could be taking a significant step towards broader availability. Launched initially as a Pixel phone exclusive, the Magic Editor feature found its way into the Google Photos app for Google One subscribers. Soon, though, it could be available to use without a Google One subscription.

An APK teardown helps predict features that may arrive on a service in the future based on work-in-progress code. However, it is possible that such predicted features may not make it to a public release.

In the latest Google Photos APK (v6.78.0.622306643), we’ve spotted code strings hinting at this potential change. Here are the specific strings that mention the feature:

<string name="photos_photoeditor_fragments_editor3_udon_confirm_entry_subtitle_metered">"Make editing even easier with a new AI experience from Labs. Remove distractions, move your subjects around, improve backgrounds, and more. You can save %s edited photos every month or subscribe to a Google One Premium plan for unlimited saves.</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_udon_metered_saves_remaining">%s saves left</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_udon_meterered_bottom_sheet_acknowledge_and_dismiss">Got it</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_udon_meterered_bottom_sheet_body">Your %s saves are refreshed on the first day of every month. Get unlimited
saves in Magic Editor, extra storage, and more with a Google One Premium subscription.</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_udon_meterered_bottom_sheet_headline">You have %s saves left this month</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_udon_meterered_bottom_sheet_headline_quota_exhausted">You’ve used all your saves this month</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_udon_meterered_bottom_sheet_launch_upsell_flow">Upgrade now</string>

These code strings suggest Google may implement a “metered saves” system for Magic Editor. This would likely allow users to edit and save a limited number of photos for free each month using Magic Editor. After reaching the limit, an upgrade to a Google One plan would be required for continued usage, or users would need to wait until the next month to get their quota of free saves replenished. Google One subscribers would naturally continue to enjoy unrestricted access to the feature.

Magic Editor offers impressive capabilities. Users can change skies, stylize images, rearrange or resize objects, and erase distractions. Currently, while I can preview the effects of premium editing features like Magic Eraser without a Google One membership, I’m unable to save or download the results. By allowing users to experience the magic firsthand, many will likely be tempted to upgrade to a Google One subscription to unlock the full potential of the tool.

While we’re not sure if and when Google will make the free metered usage for Magic Editor available to the public, it wouldn’t be surprising if it happens soon, given Google’s recent push towards making AI an integral part of all of its services.

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