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Google is ending free unlimited Google Photos storage on June 1st, 2021 for nearly everyone

Google announced changes to the company’s Google Photos service in regards to storage usage on November 11, 2020. The change, which will take effect on June 1, 2021, drops the current storage policy of allowing unlimited free “high quality” photos and videos on the service. Original quality photos and videos count against the storage limit already for most Google customers, but the change may have far reaching consequences for Google customers who do use the Photos service regularly.

All photos and videos uploaded to the service after June 1, 2021 will count against the customers storage quota. The only exception to the rule is that Pixel 1-5 owners will still be exempt from that new ruling. If you do own a Pixel 1-5, your “high quality” photo and video uploads will still be unlimited and won’t count against the storage quota of the account.

The new ruling does not affect photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos before June 1, 2021. All of these don’t count against the storage quota of the account

Google notes that the change allows more than 80% of all Google Photos users to store photos and videos on the service for “roughly three years worth of memories” with the free 15 Gigabytes that every account gets. Customers will be notified if storage space reaches a threshold. Storage space is shared across Google services.

The company notes that users can see an estimate of how long they will be able to leverage free storage.

google photos free storage estimate

From June 2021 on, customers may use a new tool to review backed up photos and videos.

This tool will help you review the memories you want to keep while also surfacing shots you might prefer to delete, like dark or blurry photos or large videos.

Google notes that the change allows the company “to keep peace with the growing demand for storage”.

Additionally, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard files will also count against the storage quota.

Google may also delete content from accounts after two years of inactivity, but will notify users multiple times before any content is removed.

If you’re inactive in one or more of these services for two years (24 months), Google may delete the content in the product(s) in which you’re inactive. […] Similarly, if you’re over your storage limit for two years, Google may delete your content across Gmail, Drive and Photos.

The last paragraph on the company’s The Keyword blog hints at another  intent, as Google suggests in it that customers may expand storage at any time by subscribing to Google One.

The cheapest Google One plan is available for $1.99 per month, and it gives users 100 Gigabytes of storage.

Customers who run into storage quota issues have a handful of options to deal with the issue:

  1. Backup / delete videos and photos that take up space to free up storage and stay under the current quota and continue to upload photos or videos to Google Photos.
  2. Upgrade the plan by subscribing to Google One.
  3. Switch to a different storage / service provider for photo and video content.

Google can expect that part of the company’s customer base will select the second option if they hit quota limits, as the first option is something that customers need to do every once in a while to stay under the free storage limit, and the third option is a hassle provided that a service with better conditions can be found even.

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