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Google One is losing a lot of its appeal, but Photos has me locked in

Google One still has the one feature that matters.

Published onApril 16, 2024

Google One logo on smartphone next to other devices Stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

I’ve been a Google One subscriber for a couple of years now. At first, I tried to avoid the subscription as long as I could because I don’t like accruing monthly or yearly payments. But as my Google Photos storage started to fill up over years of traveling, attending concerts, watching sports games, and visiting interesting places around Paris, it became clear that my free Google quota wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

I made the jump and thought I was getting a decent deal with my $20 100GB One storage plan. Extra space for my photos and videos so I can keep all my memories and people in one place, plus a decent Google One VPN service, all for less than $2 a month. Sure, I felt a bit sour to see Google offer One subscribers extra features in the US, but I’m so used to being snuffed that I forgot about it.

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Things were great for over a year. I set up automatic backups of my media and files to my own Synology NAS drive, so I wasn’t solely relying on Google Drive and Photos. That’s why I kept my Photos uploads locked to the compressed quality. I also used the VPN when I needed it. And I used my One storage to keep backups of my Android phones, tablets, and Wear OS watches.

But some recent changes are starting to make me question the value of my One subscription. First, Google announced that all WhatsApp backups would start counting against One storage. That’s one feature Google had previously offered for free and was now sweeping away under our noses. I don’t have an issue with companies making money from their services, but I have an issue with the bait-and-switch approach. Just tell me something will be free for a couple of years and paid later, so I can make an informed decision by committing to it.

With that decision, Google took back 3.48GB from my One storage. It’s not much, but I hadn’t counted on losing 3.5% of the 100GB I was paying for. And that’s considering I don’t back up videos. Anyone who uses WhatsApp a lot more than me and hangs on to their videos will be out a lot more than just 3-4GB. That’s why some people are receiving an email telling them they’ll run out of One storage in 30 days.

VPN by Google One on Pixel 7 Pro stock photo 3
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Then, a couple of days ago, Google started emailing One subscribers to tell them that VPN by Google One is shutting down. One more service for the Google graveyard, but this one is something we were paying for. Unlike random free offshoots like Google Podcasts, Inbox, or even Reader (RIP), this one was part of a paid subscription. It’s not the first time Google has shut down a paid service — Stadia, Nest Secure, and Play Music say “hi” — but this one did come out of the blue.

Google’s VPN wasn’t perfect as a standalone VPN service, but it had its fans, and it was the one nifty extra perk of Google One over other cloud storage services. When we asked you about it, over 53% of 8000+ Android Authority readers told us they use Google One, with 33% specifying they used it very often. It’s rare to get this much endorsement for a Google service, and this one seems to have its fans.

But apparently, not enough to justify Google’s investment. Now, those who might’ve picked Google One over other cloud services because of its extra perks will be left without it. They could move to other providers soon.

For me, the death of this feature and the WhatsApp change both make Google One less appealing than it ever was. At this point, the only thing keeping me locked — or even practically imprisoned — in Google’s cloud service is Photos. All my memories are so perfectly indexed there, thanks to Google’s automatic face, place, and thing grouping and my personally curated albums. It would take me weeks to recreate this in any other photo service, no matter how much cheaper it is or how many extra features it offers.

I bet Google knows this, too. It knows it can kill every other One perk, and people would still pay for the storage because of Google Photos, wouldn’t they?

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