There are many reasons why I love Google Photos but one of the leading reasons is unlimited space. As long as you are willing to store your photos in High Quality as opposed to original quality Google Photos will allow you to store as many photos as you want into their cloud storage platform. On 1 June that is going to change.
The colourful history of Google Photos
I have to say, based on my extensive history of using the service, Google Photos has come a long way. Most people scoffed and mocked Google when they launched their own social networking called Google+ to compete with Facebook. To this day many people think it was a complete failure. They couldn’t be more wrong. From the ashes of Google+ rose two important achievements:
- Google Photos
- Tighter integration of Google’s services
Prior to the launch and failure of Google+, Google’s services tended to be disparate to the extent that some people didn’t even know if a service was owned by Google or not. Sometimes you needed separate logins for certain services. Google also saw an explosion and wider acceptance of Google’s OAuth service.
Its biggest achievement of course is Google Photos which was initially used to embed photos into the Google+ service. Around 2015 Google spurn out Photos as a distinct service without none of their failed social media ambition. During December of that year, they added albums. Then in June 2016, they added the auto albums feature. It was about this time when I hopped onto Google Photos and started using it full time.
I am lazy when it comes to organising photos. I am not a prolific photographer by any means. It’s just that sometimes you take a photo or several photos using your phone and completely forget about it/them. In the olden days, you would have to plug your phone into a PC and transfer them there. If the PC or phone got stolen, fell in a bowl of Cerevita or was used as a hammer by your child/sibling it was sayonara photos.
Google Photos came up with the ultimate solution to this problem. You snap photos and as soon as you get home to your WiFi connection all those photos are quietly uploaded to cloud storage. You can even have that photo backed up using data. The photo is analysed using Google’s neural network, tagged automatically and placed in automatically created albums.
It wasn’t smooth sailing. Their auto-tagging feature once came under scrutiny after it identified black people as gorillas in an embarrassing moment that Google rushed to fix. The bug saw the cheeky AI refer to black people as gorillas, chimps or chimpanzees for some reason. That bug alone took them three years to fix. Thanks to things such as CAPTCHAs their neural network has become quite astute when it comes to identifying things and organising photos.
Seriously if you haven’t tried Google Photos you are missing out. Nowadays it even creates memories, auto colour pop photos, auto animations, creates a multitude of tags. You can for example just search for trees and get photos with trees. Search by place and you get photos of a given place. For famous buildings, you can just search by building name and you get all photos of that buildings. It knows when your child has reached a milestone and creates a creepy video with a title that says “They grow up so fast don’t they?” You can search for photos of your uncle by name.
The big storage change
It has been a wonderful ride but the coming storage change is going to be pretty significant we might even see some heading for alternatives. Who am I kidding, there are no Google Photos alternatives despite what our iPhone carrying Mac user friends would have us believe. iCloud is not the same thing as Google Photos. It’s like comparing a catapult to an AK 47.
Starting 1 June you will no longer have unlimited storage even if you switch to High-Quality storage. Instead whatever new stuff you upload will count towards your Google Drive storage. By default, Google offers 15GB of free storage across its entire suite of services except for example YouTube. So if you have 2GB of emails you will have 13GB of space for your photos. For each photo, you upload your space decreases.
To rephrase, this will only apply to photos you upload starting 1 June, if you are like me and already have photos in Google Photos whatever you have there already will not count towards the free 15GB storage no matter how big it is. The policy changes will only apply to new uploads.
A big deal that’s not a big deal
This is a pretty significant change, a big deal if you are a prolific uploader. It’s not clear why Google is making the change now but it could be for a number of reasons. I can only speculate and two reasons I can think of is that Google’s neural network has come of age and no longer needs the free photos to chomp on and learn and it was a business decision. A number of people were already abusing the service storing terabytes of data including pirated movies using clever scripts. So the change is a money move.
To be fair while it’s a big deal the change is also not really a big deal. Most users will find it hard to fill up that new 15GB quota. I have seen Google’s High-Quality photo compressing algorithm in action and it’s a work of magic. Massive RAW files are compressed to below 5MB using sorcery. Unless you are an eagle you will find it hard to spot the difference.
In the event that you exhaust this 15GB, you can always buy extra storage from Google. For US$1.99 per month, you will get 100GB of storage. For US$100 per year, you will get 2TB of storage. If you a glutton who still needs more you can get unlimited storage via G Suite. Just make sure you don’t go on eBay and sign up with a third party, you will lose your data.
So if you have a massive cache of photos you have been meaning to upload to Google Photos lying around somewhere make sure you do it before 1 June. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The elders say those who don’t listen are easily identifiable by the scars on their foreheads. If you don’t listen you will end up paying.