Google Photos is now the best reason to buy a Pixel phone

Pixel 4a Alex Google Photos Outside
Pixel 4a Alex Google Photos Outside (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

The news that Google Photos will stop granting us unlimited space for standard quality photos is not completely unexpected. It costs money to provide enough storage for the 28 billion new photos being uploaded each week and Google doesn't use anything from your photos library for advertising or account profiling. The Google Photos service is a complete financial loss for Google.

Google says that this doesn't apply to anything you've uploaded before June 1, 2021 (so start uploading all your photos and videos now!) and it expects it will take three more years for most users to reach the new 15GB limit. Unless you're using one of Google's Pixel phones, that is.

Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Every Google Pixel, from the first model through to 2020's Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5 are exempt from this change. Every full-resolution photo you upload still counts against the original 15GB storage limit, but you'll still have unlimited space for "regular" high-resolution photos that are uploaded from a Pixel phone.

Most people don't buy Pixel phones, but most people do use Google Photos.

This is understandably going to cause some backlash from a lot of us — especially if you just bought a new Samsung or Apple phone because of the great cameras each offer. But it's actually a smart play from a company that just can't sell phones in any volume.

Nobody is buying a Galaxy Note Ultra because of Bixby or Samsung Knox. Both are great services in their own right, but they aren't real showcase features.

On the other hand, Google Photos is one of Google's best and most used services and there are over 4 trillion photos sitting in the cloud already. Google isn't touching any of those and will give you 15GB of storage above and beyond what's uploaded before June 1, 2021, but if you have a Pixel you still get the all-you-can-eat Google Photos everyone is used to having.

Googel Pixel 5 Video

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

This goes hand in hand with the one thing that makes a Pixel great; it's the best camera phone money can buy. Google is selling you a device that replaces a point and shoot camera and you'll likely want to use that camera a lot. You can, because Google is also giving you all the storage you need with no limits.

A Pixel 5 costs less than buying 2TB of Google storage and offers unlimited space in Google Photos.

Google doesn't mention if any future Pixel phones will still have unlimited Google Photos space, but Android Central can confirm that they won't. This is still a great selling point that no other company is matching, at least for now. Maybe this will spur an unlimited storage space for photos from Samsung or Apple, but probably not. It would also be a great time for Amazon to remind folks that it also offers unlimited photo storage for Prime members, though the service isn't as full-featured as Google Photos is.

In any case, Google Photos is still a great service, and once you reach any future limits on storage space, worth paying for. An extra 200GB of space through Google One is just $30 per year, and you can get an extra 2TB of space for $100 per year. You can also look at it this way: Buying a Pixel 4a is cheaper than paying for 10TB of storage for one year, and Google really wants you to look at it this way.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.