FOR WELL OVER five years, Google Photos has been one of the easiest recommendations in tech. It’s feature-filled, ubiquitous, whip-smart, easy to use, and, most importantly, has let you store infinite photos at “high-quality” resolution—a polite way of saying “compressed”—without charging you a dime. No longer. The Google Photos gravy train will leave the station next summer, the company announced earlier today. Once you go over 15 gigabytes, you’re going to have to pay up.
It’s important to be clear about what exactly is changing here. All Google accounts come with 15 GB of free storage, which you eat up with Gmail messages and attachments, Google Drive files, and Google Photos uploaded at their original size. All of that still applies. But you’ve had an option to this point to let Google resize your photos to a 16-megapixel maximum when you upload them. Those photos, as well as videos that top out at 1080p resolution, have not counted against that 15-GB cap. As of June 1, 2021, new uploads of any size will.
The good news: This means your existing “high-quality” photos and videos won’t apply to the 15-GB limit, nor will any that you upload through next May. In a blog post announcing the change, Google Photos vice president Shimrit Ben-Yair said that 80 percent of users should stay under their quota for roughly three years before they hit that limit, although obviously your mileage will vary. (High-quality photos uploaded from Pixel phones will remain exempt.)