When we first heard that Google was locking a popular Google Photos feature behind a Google One paywall and that they had revived their Premium Prints subscription service in Photos, we knew that something was going on. I’ve alluded to the fact that Google seems to be becoming as much paid as it is free nowadays and now we know why. Apparently, due to an increased demand for storage, given the popularity of their services, the golden age of free data storage with Google seems to be coming to an end. Beginning June 1, 2021, they will stop offering unlimited free backup for high-quality photo uploads in Google Photos and on the same date, Docs, Sheets, and Slides in Google Drive will be counted against your storage quota whereas they previously were not.
Google Photos has offered unlimited, free backup to more than a billion users since 2015 – that’s 4 trillion photos and videos in 5 years or 28 billion uploads per week. Whew! Having never advertised their service as free forever, storage limitations and congestion issues on their servers have probably been on their minds for quite some time internally. They’re providing you with a tool that allows you to get an estimate on how long the 15GB of free storage that comes with your Google account will last before you’ll need to consider upgrading to a Google One subscription or deleting some older files.
Important: Any high-quality photos bigger than 16 megapixels and videos over 1080p that were compressed prior to June 1, 2021 will not be counted towards your 15GB storage limit! Instead, they will remain free and exempt.
For the time being, photos and videos shot on a Pixel phone (1-5) will continue to be exempt from this change as well. Google says that most users should be able to continue storing photos and videos for free for the next three years. In addition to the personal estimate, they’ve built a tool in Google Photos that will allow you to quickly identify and delete older, less relevant photos and videos. Doing so clears up a certain ‘time span’ of storage, instead of a size amount. For example, deleting lots of items could help you recover ‘6 months of storage’, which seems like it’s more relevant to the end-user than a number.
Many people may not realize this, but in Google Drive, your Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files have always been exempt from counting against your storage quota as they were Google file types and not uploaded, external files. Going forward (again, June 1, 2021), these will begin to count against your free 15GB storage quota or whatever limit you have if you’re already a Google One subscriber. Please note that existing files in your Google Drive of the aforementioned types will not count against your storage quota.
Google is also introducing a new policy for inactive accounts that breach their free 15 GB storage limit:
If you’re inactive in one or more of these services for two years (24 months), Google may delete the content in the product(s) in which you’re inactive.
Similarly, if you’re over your storage limit for two years, Google may delete your content across Gmail, Drive, and Photos.
Before deleting your files, Google will notify you multiple times so that you have ample opportunities to take action. All you’ll have to do is sign into your Google account and load up Gmail, Google Photos, or Google Drive on the web or a mobile device while signed in and connected to the internet to reset the clock. The new two-year inactive policy will override your Inactive Account Manager settings. These new rules should help Google clean house a bit and provide better services to active users, so it’s a welcome change in my opinion, though this will no doubt spark controversy across the internet.
It seems like Google One is becoming the answer to all of their storage problems (and yours) – The ability to manage all of your data across your Google account in one place will now be more important than ever and providing that to you at a nominal fee allows Google to recoup some of the cost that it’s taken to run their servers for the last decade. Besides, they recently started offering a VPN with their 2TB+ tiers, so the service is becoming decent lately.
Google’s services no longer offering unlimited free photo, video, and file storage is a sad reality that we all probably expected, but never really took seriously until now. It makes sense from Google’s standpoint because while they seem like they’re made of infinite money, they’re not, and the fact that they could offer unlimited free storage for so many users for so many years is already incredible. We’ll update this article if anything changes or if any new details come to light. Thank you for your service, Google, now please don’t screw it up and instead, remain competitive in your prices and offerings.