Google to stop iPhone users from getting free original quality Photos backup

Google Photos
(Image credit: Google)

With the launch of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, fans were somewhat disappointed to hear they’d lose the long-standing offer of unlimited, free, original quality uploads to Google Photos – an offer that had been present across all three of the previous Pixel phone generations.

To add insult to injury, a Redditor (/u/stephenvsawyer) revealed that iPhone users do currently get unlimited Photos storage, but as Android Police discovered, this is about to change. 

Free ride

While it's free for Google Photos users to have as many 'high quality' images as they want, if you don't pay for a premium account, any image stored in 'original quality' counts towards the account's total maximum 15GB storage limit, which also includes other services such as Drive, Docs and more.

Since iOS 11, iPhones have been using the HEIC file format to take photos and store them locally on the device. One of the main benefits of such a format is that it compresses the image more than the JPEG format does and thus takes up less storage space.

Because the premium subscription for Google Photos measures its ‘original quality’ uploads by its file size, users uploading anything in the HEIC format would technically still fall under the limit (16MB), while also being able to store and retain the photo’s original resolution.

Bug fix?

Android Police reached out to Google about this quirk, and the software giant responded by stating that it was aware of the workaround and would be fixing the ‘bug’.

No details were revealed on how Google intended to ‘fix’ this issue, however. Some such possibilities include lowering the file size threshold for HEIC images to be considered ‘original quality, compressing them into even smaller HEIC files, or forcibly converting them to JPEG images once uploaded.

None of these options are overly ideal for the consumer, but Google will need to do something so as not to disadvantage its own customers while giving users of competing products a free ride. We’ll keep you updated on how Google decides to best resolve this issue.

Harry Domanski
Harry is an Australian Journalist for TechRadar with an ear to the ground for future tech, and the other in front of a vintage amplifier. He likes stories told in charming ways, and content consumed through massive screens. He also likes to get his hands dirty with the ethics of the tech.