Android users are about to lose one picture-perfect advantage

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There are a number of differences between Android and iPhone, but one that Google has been keen to point out in a series of advertisements over the years is the free unlimited storage available in Google Photos, compared to the 5GB free cloud storage on offer from Apple for all iPhone owners. In a series of adverts, Google mocked the “low storage” warning box that can appear when trying to take a photo – touting that Android users would be able to automatically back-up their images to its servers in a high-quality format without paying a penny.

Unfortunately, that has now changed. After five years of offering users free photo back-up in its compressed “high quality” format, Google Photos will now start charging for storage plans as soon as users fill the free 15GB allowance that comes with every Google Account. The change is scheduled to kick-in from June 1, 2021. So, you’ve got a few more months to take advantage of the offer and back-up your treasured family snaps.

Google also plans to delete data from inactive accounts, which it defines as any accounts that haven’t been logged in to for two years.

Pixel-branded smartphones will still be able to store photos in a “high quality” format after the deadline. This unlimited photo storage is one of the biggest differentiators between Google’s own hardware and other Android handsets, and it’s nice to see that Google isn’t going back on its word. However, the Californian company has confirmed to The Verge that future Pixel handsets will not offer unlimited storage, so users will be subject to the same monthly fees.

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Google Photos is available on iOS and the free storage offer was available to iPhone owners with a Google Account. However, Apple doesn’t allow iPhone owners to change the default photo library, so users would need to periodically open the Google Photos to upload their latest snaps, and then head back to the Apple Photos app to delete the images to avoid hitting the 5GB cloud storage limit from Apple (or cough-up for additional iCloud storage each month).

Understandably, that’s a bit of a faff, so the latest changes are far more likely to impact those on Android and iOS.

It’s unclear exactly why Google has ditched its promise to store all of your photos for free.

Thankfully, any images you’ve already got stored in the cloud with Google Photos won’t count towards your 15GB allowance when the changes take place on June 1. So, depending on how many photos you take in a typical month, you should be able to get to the end of 2021 without hitting the new 15GB allowance. Once you do, Google charges £1.59 a month for 100GB of storage on its servers, £2.49 for 200GB (this membership comes with a 3 percent cashback on everything in the Google Store), and £7.99 for 2TB of cloud backup.

The Mountain View-based company says it will send alerts and warnings whenever you’re close to hitting your storage limit. Google has also introduced new storage management tools in Google Photos, including a tool that makes it easier to weed out unwanted photos, like blurry images or old screenshots, and delete them to save space.

Announcing the changes, Google posted a blog post that reads: “Today, more than 4 trillion photos are stored in Google Photos, and every week 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded. Since so many of you rely on Google Photos to store your memories, it’s important that it’s not just a great product, but also continues to meet your needs over the long haul. In order to welcome even more of your memories and build Google Photos for the future, we are changing our unlimited High quality storage policy.”

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