Google Photos axes free, unlimited storage for 'high quality' snaps

Google PIxel 4a 5G
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Google Photos, the search giant's popular online image storage and editing platform, has today announced it will no longer provide free, unlimited cloud storage (opens in new tab) for ‘high quality’ photos and videos. Starting on June 1, 2021, any newly uploaded images will instead count towards the free 15GB of cloud storage that comes with every Google Account.

If you use Google Photos, any ‘high quality’ photos or videos you upload to the service before the June 1 deadline will not count towards that 15GB storage cap, even after the new rules come into play.

There’s no change being made to images or videos uploaded in ‘original quality’, as these are already counted towards an account's 15GB storage cap. The key difference between the two is that ‘original quality’ preserves files in their original resolution, while ‘high quality’ files are processed and compressed automatically by Google Photos to save space.

There is one notable group of users who are exempt from the changes: if you own any Pixel smartphone, from the original through to the brand new Pixel 5 (opens in new tab), you can continue uploading and storing as many high quality snaps and videos as you’d like without it contributing to your quota.

In a blog post (opens in new tab), Google Photos says the switch is a necessary step that, “allows us to keep pace with the growing demand for storage”. Still, it’s sure to elicit a reaction from users who have been receiving free, unlimited storage of their memories in for over five years now.

Google estimates that once these changes take effect, around 80% of users should be able to store about three more years worth of photos and videos before they'll hit that 15GB free storage cap. The company also provides a personalized estimate (opens in new tab), so you can see how much you have left. Other Google services such as Gmail and Drive also count towards your 15GB.

Once June 1, 2021 rolls around, Google is also introducing a new function that will spot dark or blurry photos, and even large videos, and ask if you want to delete them from your account.

If you find you've reached the 15GB cap, you’ll need to sign up for a Google One account to buy more storage space. Prices start at $1.99 / £1.99 / AU$1.99 per month for 100GB.

Jasmine Gearie
Ecommerce editor

Jasmine Gearie is an ecommerce editor at TechRadar Australia, with a primary focus on helping readers cut through the jargon to find the best mobile and internet plans for their needs. She crunches the numbers to maintain dedicated guides to the latest phones, NBN and broadband plans of all types, and covers the important telco industry news. She also hunts down tech deals on laptops, phones, gaming consoles and more, so readers know where to buy the products they want for the cheapest prices.