Google Photos would like some of your money.
The service is turning six years old and will kick off its quest for monetization next week, when Google will start getting more restrictive about photo storage limits. The goal is to push users over the 15GB free limit that comes with every Google account so they’ll buy more storage via the “Google One” program.
Google Photos launched with two photo storage tiers: uncompressed “Original” quality, which counted toward your storage usage, and compressed “High Quality” photos, which did not count toward the limit. Starting on June 1, all newly uploaded photos—even the compressed ones—will count toward the storage limit. Images uploaded before that date that didn’t count toward the limit still won’t count. But with automatic upload, it’s only a matter of time before shutterbugs fill up their online storage.
Google is adding tools to help you manage your data better under the “manage data” setting on the website and app. A usage estimator references past usage patterns to predict how much time you have left until you fill up your storage. A new “review and delete” section will point out large images and videos, screenshots, and any photos Google thinks are “blurry” (in my limited testing, this feature seemed… very picky). This tool should be available on the web right now, and it’s also slowly rolling out to phones. Google is also renaming the compressed “High quality” photo tier as “storage saver,” which better denotes what the setting does.
It would be nice if Google would use its machine-learning magic to point out duplicate photos, but the company hasn’t done so here.
The Google One storage tier that Photos will now put stress on is a 15GB limit that counts everything stored in your Gmail, Photos, and Google Drive. Subscribing to the Google One program will increase your storage limit across all three services. That’s particularly useful for Google Drive, which, just like Dropbox, lets you store whatever you want via a cloud folder that syncs across your desktop computers. The Google One starter plan is $2 per month (or $20 yearly) for 100GB of storage. You can also get 200GB ($3 per month/$30 a year), 2TB ($10 per month/$100 a year), or 30TB ($150 per month). You can share any of these plans with up to five family members.
Now that Google has users hooked, the company has been working to pare down free Google Photos options for a few years. Owners of Google Pixel phones used to get unlimited original quality uploads, but that offer went away with the Pixel 4, and some older Pixels have had their unlimited upload promotion expire. With this new restriction in place, Google is giving Pixel owners unlimited compressed uploads, which is a small consolation price compared to the pretty good deal they used to get.
Google Photos has also started locking new editor features behind the Google One paywall. Today, Google Photos’ machine-learning-powered features like portrait background blur and portrait light are only available to Google One subscribers or Pixel users.
Around 80 percent of Google’s revenue still comes from ads, but with moves like this, the company is hoping to diversify and get users to cough up a few dollars each month.