It feels like Google Photos has existed a whole lot longer than the five years it’s been around. By 2019 the service had attracted over 1 billion users, meaning the recent announcement that Google is ceasing free unlimited storage will be a huge blow to, well, more than a billion people.
As of 1 June 2021, any photos or videos you upload, or which are uploaded automatically by the app, will count against your 15GB of Google storage, or however much storage you have with your Google account.
Google Photos will still work
Technically, you don’t need to do anything when that date arrives because photos and videos you take on your phone will still be uploaded to Google Photos as normal. But that will stop when your storage is full.
This means those images will stay on your phone and won’t be backed up in the cloud. That may be ok with you, and it doesn’t mean you can’t view those photos in the Google Photos app on your phone and benefit from all the great features such as automatic tagging, the subject-based search (such as “cats” or “cars”) and the automatic creations such as animations and videos.
Aside from the fact you no longer have an online backup of your photos and videos, you won’t be able to access them in Google Photos from any other device.
I love being able to quicky find a photo in web browser version of Google Photos, but once your storage is full, the web version won’t update with new photos and videos.
How can I get more Google Photos storage?
You can clear out large files taking up space in your Google storage. But this is only a temporary fix as that space will fill up again with photos and videos sooner or later.
And don’t forget, that free 15GB is used by Gmail and Google Drive, so you’ll need available storage if you want to keep receiving emails and creating new Google Docs or uploading files.
The company says it will launch a new tool which will help you get rid of blurry, dark and ‘unwanted’ content in Google Photos on the day unlimited free storage ends.
You’ll have received an email about the change and in it is a link to a personalised estimate of when your free storage will fill up, so it could be months or years depending upon how many photos and videos you take.
But ultimately, you’ll have to pay if you want to continue backing up to Google Photos. This isn’t as expensive as you might fear, and it's called Google One - a sort of combined storage and, now, VPN service.
Upgrading to 100GB is less than £2/$2 per month and you can have up to 2TB if you need it.
What other options do I have to back up photos and videos from my camera roll?
If you prefer, you can sign up to one of the best cloud storage services which may offer even more storage or – better still – a lifetime plan which means you pay once for a set amount of storage and there’s then no subscription fee to pay after that.
An example is pCloud which offers 500GB for a one-off payment of £175 or 2TB for £350. Both are 65% discounts on the normal prices.
The pCloud app for Android and iOS offers automatic backups of your camera roll too, so you won’t have to do anything – just like Google Photos.
Obviously you lose the great features of Google Photos mentioned earlier - plus the photos and video editing tools. Which is why you might prefer to pay for Google One storage instead.
Unfortunately, there are no free services which are equivalent alternatives to Google Photos. If you have a NAS drive, you can probably use it to back up your camera roll. As for online services, iCloud isn't free and neither is Flickr (which now limits free users to 1000 photos).
For more details on those, see our roundup of the best alternatives to Google Photos.
We discussed the changes in our weekly podcast Fast Charge, which you can watch right here: