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Google Photos storage: Here's what you need to know

There are exemptions for Pixel owners.

Published onApril 6, 2021

google photos app icon logo google pixel 5 2
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google Photos has long been a free and easy way to keep all of your pictures in one place. For years, you could store all of the high-quality images you wanted, especially as a Pixel owner. Now, things are changing, and Google is doing away with its unlimited storage. Here’s everything you need to know about Google Photos and your options from now on.

How does Google Photos work right now?

google photos logo library tab photo books photo prints 1
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google currently offers three ways to keep your images safe and sound on Photos. The first of which is unlimited high-quality storage, which it provides for free. This compresses your shots slightly so that they take up less space, but you can add as many images as you want. Your still images will resize to 16MP while videos will move to 1080p.

Another way to manage your pictures is with free express-quality storage. It compresses your images even further down to 3MP for stills and 480p for videos so you can download or back them up faster.

The final way to keep your images in Google Photos is at original quality, but you won’t find an unlimited option here. You’re stuck with just a 15GB Google Photos storage limit to save these top-quality shots, and that storage is shared between Drive, Gmail, and Photos.

Google Photos also packs the power of the Google Assistant, which generates edited versions of some of your best shots. You can then view these images in special flipbooks, galleries, and more. It also filters your pictures into albums using facial recognition, which can provide a serious organizational boost.

If you’d rather make your own edits, you can do so in minutes. Of course, Google Photos doesn’t offer the most extensive set of tools, but it’s better than nothing. You can even pay to order some of your favorite images as books or prints to hang around your home.

What is changing about Google Photos?

Google Photos logo on smartphone next to imaging accessories stock photo 2

As of June 1, 2021, Google Photos’ storage options are in for a significant overhaul. Starting on that day, your high-quality and express quality content will count towards your 15GB Google Photos storage limit. Once you reach that limit, you will either have to add a Google One subscription or begin to delete content that you don’t need to have backed up.

Cost plays a significant factor in this decision, as Google is finding it simply too expensive to support the sheer volume of unrestricted uploads. There are already more than four trillion photos packed into Google’s servers, and that number has only continued to grow.

See also: The best Google Photos alternatives: Keep your photos safe and secure

Luckily for you, there are a few ways to maximize your storage space before the June 1 cutoff. Any high-quality or express quality images that you back up before June will not count towards your limit. That means you may want to take some time and find images that you don’t want to be without. Original quality shots will still count towards the 15GB limit, as will original quality images you compress to high-quality after June 1.

On the bright side, Google has constructed a handy tool to estimate how long you have before you run out of storage space. It works best if you regularly back up your photos, though estimates are not always available. For example, if you are close to your limit or your account is provided through a school or a job, you may not have access to an estimate.

What does it mean for Pixel owners?

Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Google has never been shy about showing some love to Pixel owners, and that’s not changing. If you have a Pixel 5 device or earlier, you won’t have to worry too much about the changes detailed above. You will still be able to upload unlimited images at varying levels of quality past June 1, 2021.

See also: Google Pixel 5 revisited

For Pixel 3a through Pixel 5 owners, that means unlimited high-quality images. Pixel 3 owners can still upload unlimited original quality images to Google Photos through January 31, 2022, when it will switch to unlimited high-quality pictures. Unfortunately, Pixel 2 owners have already made the switch to unlimited high-quality uploads as of January 16, 2021. Finally, original Pixel owners will be able to continue uploading at original quality with no limits.

How does Google One work?

Pixel 5 front
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you find yourself up against your storage limit, or you know you’ll get there soon, it’s time to consider a Google One membership. Google One is a cloud storage platform that kicks your 15GB limit up to 100GB, 200GB, or 2TB. Of course, it’s not free, but the base plan will only cost you $1.99 per month. If you’d rather have 200GB, you’re looking at $2.99 per month, and the 2TB plan costs $9.99 each month.

See also: Everything you need to know about Google One

While the extra storage is nice, it’s not the only reason to sign up for Google One. Once you upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll get access to Google experts, the option to add your family to your plan, and even extra member bonuses. The 200GB and 2TB plans offer 3% and 10% back at the Google Store, respectively.

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