Some Google Photos editing features may soon be paywalled

Google Photos Pixel 4a
Google Photos Pixel 4a (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Update, November 06 (08:20 pm ET): Google explains what's going on.

What you need to know

  • Google is working on a change to the Photos app that'll make it easier to monetise.
  • It's moving some editing features behind a paywall.
  • You'll then need a Google One subscription to access those features.

Google Photos is a fun service from Google that's been recommended for its ease of use across platforms. It stores all your photos, works on all your devices, and even throws in editing for free. Now, Google is working on monetization for the app. The company already sells albums and prints, now it's going to put some pre-existing features behind a paywall.

As per XDA Developers, it's testing moving Color Pop, a feature that would leave the subject in color while rendering the rest of the photo in monochrome, behind a Google One paywall. If this rolls out, to use that feature, you'll need to have a Google One subscription on your Google account.

It's a move that strikes us as a little odd, especially when it comes to a stock app for Android One phones, but it's not without precedent. Microsoft does the same thing with premium editing features in the Microsoft Photos app being locked behind an Office 365 paywall.

Of course, it would be more user-friendly for the company to create new features for this new Google One integration, rather than lock away ones that were already in the project. Perhaps that's what Google plans to do when it rolls this change out widely, lest they risk being seen as greedy.

Update, November 06 (08:20 pm ET) — A Google statement sheds some light on the situation

Google told Engadget that the version of color pop it was rolling out to Google One customers is actually an enhanced version that works without depth information. It can therefore be applied to older photos and is presumably more technically complex than the free mode.

As per Engadget, here's the full comment:

In Google Photos, color pop is a feature that continues to be available for anyone to use, at no cost, for photos with depth information (such as portrait mode). As a part of an ongoing rollout that began earlier this year, Google One members can apply the feature to even more photos of people, including those without depth information.

Michael Allison