Google Photos giving iPhone unlimited storage at original quality while snubbing Pixel 4

What you need to know

  • iPhone owners can enjoy unlimited photo storage at full quality with Google Photos.
  • Pixel 4 owners are currently left without the benefit.
  • A high-efficiency file format that iPhone supports is the cause of the mishap.

A new finding shows that iPhone owners will enjoy unlimited storage of all of their photos at full quality on Google Photos, while Pixel 4 owners are being left without the benefit. Uncovered by Reddit user stephenvsawyer and reported by 9to5Mac, iPhone owners who use the default format for their photos (HEIC/HEIF) will create files that are actually smaller than the JPG files that Google compresses for photos taken with the Pixel.

"With all modern iPhones shooting photos in HEIC format, which is smaller than even Googles compressed JPG files, iPhones therefore get free unlimited ORIGINAL quality backups simply because it would cost Google both storage space (because if Google tried to compress iPhones HEIC photos they would actually become larger) and computing power (because Google doesn't need to compress and process all of the billions of photos iPhones backup.)So Apple is literally saving Google millions of dollars by shooting their photos in HEIC and it benefits iPhone users as well because we get free original quality backups."

When Google announced the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL on at its Made By Google event, it revealed that the phones will not receive unlimited photo storage at original quality like its predecessors. The original Pixel will still retain its lifetime of free full quality backup while the Pixel 2 and 3 are set to lose this benefit in 2021. At that time, those two models will join the Pixel 4 with unlimited storage at "high quality" and full quality will cost owners storage space.

While the Pixel 4 and 4XL currently do not have the option to save in the higher efficiency format, Android 10 does support it, so it could a matter of a software update to bring this much-loved benefit back to Pixel owners.

If you have an iPhone and would like to enjoy this benefit with Google Photos (opens in new tab), check to make sure you have the correct photo format set by going to Settings > Camera > Formats and make sure High Efficiency is selected. Keep in mind that this only applies to photos and videos will continue to be saved with Google in 1080p.

10 Comments
  • "While the Pixel 4 and 4XL currently do not have the option to save in the higher efficiency format, Android 10 does support it, so it could a matter of a software update to bring this much-loved benefit back to Pixel owners." This sounds like a win-win right there. 👍
  • I hope so man! Would love to see this work for everyone.
  • It sounds like bullshirt to me
    They *could* bring it back with an update... They *could*give me a billion dollars. It doesn't happen unless it happens. If wishes were horses, we'd all be eating steak.
  • WTF is Google doing
  • Samsung Galaxy can take pics in this file format. Would this work for us, too?
  • Jeez....that's crazy...what the heck is Google thinking? Hardly anyone buys their flagship phones anyway, so how much would they lose..
  • Samsung's devices have the option to save as HEIF so why not give those devices that option then?
  • Galaxy S10 and Note 10 lines can both save photos in HEIF format. (Apple randomly decided to call (the industry standard name) HEIF photos 'HEIC' on the iPhone for some reason. But HEIC is the same as HEIF. It's a marketing move I guess, like 'retina' displays to differentiate them without actually having any actual differentiation)
  • Hey Google, WHAT THE WTF?
  • Google wants the Pixel 4 camera system to be the standard that every other device is compared to, but fails to include support for a high efficiency photo format. Makes perfect sense.
    /sarcasm