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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.

13 Comments
  • Google, make a high end phone and i'll continue to purchase Pixel devices. How about that Pixel Ultra, that can compete with iPhone Pro Max and S, Note series Ultra?? I just want a large screen device, with top end specs (again, similar to S, Note series) and a kick-a** camera. Right now i'm so split between next Note and next iPhone Pro Max.
  • Totally agreed! I want to go pixel but I want higher specs. The oneplus 8t is about perfect if it had the pixel software and camera built in.
  • Smart move by Google. You don't quite realise how great Google Photos is until you no longer can take it for granted. Another reason for keeping my Pixel 3a XL running, still serving my needs.
  • Google Photos is probably my favorite Google product with Maps coming in close. Also they have made my favorite commercial around backing up photos.
  • I keep my original Pixel around so I can transfer all my photos to it then upload them at full resolution for free :P
  • After catching a sale for $100 off, I literally just finished setting up my S20 FE to be a Pixel (via Lawnchair among other tweaks). I really love my S20 FE, but I guess I can return to the subpar Pixel Hardware that I've always been a part of in lieu of this news. Jerry, any dummies guide on how you do this?
  • Using a launcher does not a make it a Pixel lol. When I put on my football jersey it doesn't make me an NFL player.
  • I hope you feel better about yourself after that comment. Have a great day!
  • The LG Velvet is the phone I'd really like to have but with the money situation as it is the Pixel 4a is appealing. I wouldn't buy one just to get free storage though.
  • I use Microsoft 365 and have a family plan so I don't have to buy a mid range Pixel... :-)
  • Same here. I'm one of those people not even having a gMail account. Coming from Windows Phone I'm all settled in on OneDrive. I started to use Google Photos not even a year ago to have a backup cloud provider for my photos. Right now I am on Android and not Google nor android as a whole is able to offer me with a slideshow app to show all my photos and videos from Google Photos. Luckily I still have a Lumia 950 perfectly capable of the task via OneDrive to have a slideshow projected to my TV. It will be an easy goodbye to Google Photos.
  • If you have Amazon Prime, you can back up full resolution photos to the Amazon Photo's app for free.
  • Me too, if Google had produced a 5xl with the 865 or plus version processer I would have gladly paid up for it. Being a power user the 765processer ain't didly squat. Chosing a mid-range processer is definitely not my cup of tea! For me, the pixel5 can't compare to my 4xl?