Google Photos will soon start charging for uploads — unless you're a Pixel user

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

What you need to know

  • Photos uploaded to Google Photos will soon start counting against your Google account photo storage, Google announced today.
  • If you go over your storage quota, your Google account will be limited until you either delete some images, expand your limits with a Google One plan, or own a Pixel.
  • The policy change will take place in June 2021, all photos uploaded till then will continue be treated as normal.

Google is making a change to the way it handles photo uploads to Google Photos. Well, it will be making one in about six months, giving users time to prepare. The company will now begin to count high-quality media uploaded to Photos against your Google account storage quota. This applies whether you're on the 15GB free Google tier, or on one of its Google One plans. If you own any Pixel released till date — so the Original Pixel all the way to the Pixel 5 — you're going to be exempt from this.

It's not a policy that'll be applied retroactively. Users who have uploaded their photos in the past (and until the policy comes in on June 2021) will be grandfathered in. This means that older photos won't count against your storage quota unless you choose to edit or otherwise alter it. Google will also show a personalized estimate for you, so that you can see just how this change would affect you personally based on your past usage trends.

Why is Google doing this? Well, the company explained in a blog post:

This change also allows us to keep pace with the growing demand for storage. And, as always, we uphold our commitment to not use information in Google Photos for advertising purposes. We know this is a big shift and may come as a surprise, so we wanted to let you know well in advance and give you resources to make this easier.

So what happens if you go over this storage limit? Well, you won't be able to do anything on your Google account until you clean it up. This includes emails and new backups. You could always get a Google One plan to fill out your storage and give yourself more breathing room, but Google says it'll delete your stuff in two years if nothing is done. In addition to Photos, Google will also start counting files created in its online suite of productivity apps against your storage limits.Those don't take up much space, but it's worth now keeping an eye on them now.

It's a move that's likely to be received with consternation from vocal users, but there is some logic to it. At the same time, this change is another move into the monetization of free Google services. Sure, you can pay nothing and get a base level of service, but you'll really have to start shelling out the bucks if you want to enjoy Googles products nowadays. From YouTube to Google Photos, the company's really cutting down on free lunches.

Michael Allison
  • Ugh. Just a reason to buy a Pixel?
  • Well, time to finally get around to switching to Plex Camera Upload.
  • I've been wondering when this was going to happen. Not entirely unexpected. Server space isn't unlimited. It was just a matter of time before Google would have to make some kind of concession.
  • Time to put the Prime account to more use with Amazon Photos.
  • Amazon puts a cap on the videos storage even for Prime users, as I found out. Photos still unlimited though
  • Users really need to start reading the fine print with everything they buy and sign up for. I've been saying for years Google's Unlimited option really wasn't unlimited at all. Oh well!! $1.99 for 100gb is a steal in all honesty.
  • Onedrive,is the best for upload charge
  • Office365 is cheap per month plus you also get 1tb of OneDrive space. Only downside I see is that on my Note10±, I can't have it upload photos and vids to OneDrive from my SDcard. Your default location must be on the internal storage
  • I will never use up my storage in this lifetime. If I do I suppose I can manage couple bucks for more. Still have my Microsoft One drive and Amazon photos.
  • Bad change, seeing that Google promoted it as a free service for all users, and not ust Pixel devices. Should stay free at least for those that joined it.
    Please consider starring this, and the one on the issue tracker in it:
  • This is a problem for me as my wife takes around 50 GB of photos and videos per year on her iPhone 6. We have OneDrive Business but it won’t be enough to store our photos and videos long term (we have young kids) and like being able to scroll through all our memories of the kids in Google Photos. Looks like she’ll need to move to a Pixel for now until I can figure something else out.
  • Going to have to start storing on hard drive regularly. Is there a way to see how much storage I currently use Sonu have an idea what I "need" for new stuff?