Google Photos is now locking their Color Pop editing option behind a Google One subscription for photos without depth information. Color Pop is a feature that allows you to retain the color of a foreground object, like a person, while transforming everything in the background to greyscale using the photo’s depth information. Applying Color Pop to photos without depth information requires Google to utilize their machine learning and computer vision technology to make intelligent guesses about what is in the foreground and background, so it makes some sense that they would want to be paid for their extra efforts.
Yesterday, XDA Developers discovered that some users were seeing the feature tagged with the Google One logo (Hey, we’ve seen that icon somewhere before!) along with a banner that asks them to subscribe to the service in order to use it. It’s important to note that regular photos with depth information will continue to be able to access Color Pop without a Google One subscription! Speaking to Engadget, Google comments about the change:
“As a part of an ongoing rollout that began earlier this year, Google One members can apply the feature to even more photos of people, including those without depth information.”
Color pop will “[continue] to be available for anyone to use, at no cost” for photos with depth information (such as portrait mode).”@MishaalRahmann on Twitter
Will we see more features locked behind Google One in the near future? It seems like Google really wants you to pay for their subscription service, but aside from recently adding a VPN, its benefits have been minimal since launch. When I think about how they can sweeten their offerings and get people to sign up, I just hope that they add new features instead of tweaking existing ones. The object removal tool that was never released would be an enticing benefit for subscribers, for example. Google will need to do some work to make sure regular users understand that their access to Color Pop is not being taken away and that they will not be using Google Photos in fear of it becoming a paid convenience, but it’s definitely a bad look at first blush.
Making millions of users pay for a service that’s always been free and holding captive their beloved memories – past, present, and future, would cause Google to lose everyone’s trust. They recently brought their Premium Prints series subscription back from the dead and now with the news about Color Pop in addition to many other Google services adding in paid options, it feels like they’re becoming as much a paid platform these days as they are free one, depending on how you choose to use it. Having always gotten their money from ad revenue, it seems that Google’s business model is shifting greatly as we transition into a new era. There’s nothing wrong with providing premium services to those who are more deeply invested in their ecosystem and Google’s standard services remain free, but it could be a very slippery slope and we hope that they consider their next steps carefully.