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