Google Photos to discontinue free unlimited photo storage

Google Photo storage management

The best things in life are no longer free, at least as far as Google Photos is concerned. The service notified customers this week it would no longer offer free unlimited storage of high-resolution photos and videos starting June 1, 2021. Any new photos and videos will be applied to the free 15 GB of storage which comes with every Google Account; this storage is shared with Drive, Gmail, and Photos. Archived photos and videos already in Google Photos do not count toward that 15 GB. The additional photos will also count toward Google One storage plans, which start at $1.99 per month in the U.S. for 100 GB of storage.

Google Photos, which is not supported by advertising, has been adding revenue-generating services for some time, including expanded print products, subscription plans and retail pickup. Since its launch more than five years ago, more than 4 trillion pictures have been stored, with another 28 billion new photos and videos added weekly.

The impact on the broader photo/imaging eco-system has yet to be determined. Third-party print sites and partners have used Google Photos a de facto storage service, offering their own printing services via Google’s print API. The number of consumers will opt for paying for storage is unknown; in the past, free storage was a necessary evil for photo print sites to gain access to images. With free storage on Google, OneDrive, and social media sites like Facebook, this has become less necessary. The move could benefit Shutterfly, as the photo-personalization leader has always offered free storage, with the objective of becoming the digital hub of consumer’s memories. This was one of the drivers for the acquisition of Lifetouch.

Below is an excerpt from the announcement:

We launched Google Photos more than five years ago with the mission of being the home for your memories. What started as an app to manage your photos and videos has evolved into a place to reflect on meaningful moments in your life. 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.

Starting June 1, 2021, any new photos and videos you upload will count toward the free 15 GB of storage that comes with every Google Account or the additional storage you’ve purchased as a Google One member. Your Google Account storage is shared across Drive, Gmail and Photos. This change also allows us to keep pace with the growing demand for storage. And, as always, we uphold our commitment to not use information in Google Photos for advertising purposes. We know this is a big shift and may come as a surprise, so we wanted to let you know well in advance and give you resources to make this easier.

Google said it will provide tools to help customers determine their storage needs.