Google Kills Free Photo Storage, Changes What Counts Toward Storage Caps
Google announced two changes to its Google Storage and Google Photos policies that will impact how some users interact with these products. First, Google Photo storage will no longer be free after May 31, 2021. Beginning on June 1, all Google Photos that you upload will count against your 15GB storage limit. Previously, photos uploaded at High (compressed) quality did not count against your storage limit.
Google implies that it’s making this change to deal with staggering upload demand; the company claims 28 billion photos and videos are uploaded every week. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that this policy will not apply to any existing data stored on your Google Photos account, only to data uploaded after that time. Anyone who automatically uploads their photos to GP may want to adjust that policy or prepare to fork over more cash for the privilege.
Note: This announcement does not apply to Google Pixel owners. You will continue to receive free image storage on Google Photos, even after June 1, 2021. Google also says: “80 percent of you should still be able to store roughly three more years worth of memories with your free 15 GB of storage.” Given just how many people use Google services, 20 percent is… a lot of people. We’ve talked about how Microsoft is trying to tie people to its own backend by launching integrated sign-in services across its gaming products, and here’s an example of Google making a similar play. Every person who pays extra for Google Storage on a monthly basis is that much additional revenue into Google’s larger cloud ecosystem.
The above also plays into the other announced change: Starting on June 1, 2021, all Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files will count towards your quota. Existing files, again, will be exempt — unless you modify them. If you change the files, apparently, they count towards your quota, and this does appear to apply to Google Photos as well. Google writes:
“Existing files within these products will not count toward storage, unless they’re modified on or after June 1.”
I’m not sure how many people regularly edit older photos through Google Photos, but apparently, any application or feature that re-saves a file after June 1, 2021 will also “count” that file towards your quota in a way. If you have documents or photos that are regularly updated, for whatever reason, you should plan on those files counting against your quota even if they were created earlier.
Finally, if you don’t log into one of these products for at least two years, Google may delete the contents of the account. If you are over your storage limit for two years, Google may also delete your content across multiple services. These policies also apply to Google One services — if you use that method of accessing cloud storage, your photos and files will still count against it beginning in the summer of next year.
If you are concerned about the amount of storage you have left and how long it’ll be until you likely fill it, Google has a storage estimator accessible here that will give you a meter and timeframe it expects you’ll run out.