The high-quality upload mode in Google Photos pretty much guaranteed unlimited photo and video backups on iPhone and Android. The setup is simple: download the Google Photos app and turn on the Backup & Sync option to automatically back up photos from your phone’s gallery app. This was also the case with the Google Drive backup and sync client on Windows and macOS.
That will change as Google ends its free and unlimited storage options for photos. Google is withdrawing its offer of free unlimited downloads, and soon anything you add to your Google Account will eventually be counted in your Google Drive storage.
There are three ways that Google Photos – and photos and videos in general – will count to your Google Drive storage. This is an important change that you should be aware of so that you don’t wake up with Google Drive storage full and then go through thousands of files to delete them.
1. Downloads in original quality
If you use the original upload setting, whether in the Google Photos mobile apps or in the Backup & Sync desktop client, your photos and videos will be downloaded with the same quality – and file size – in which they were originally taken.
If this is how you upload your photos and videos, you don’t have to worry about how quickly your Google Drive storage is filling up. That said, your imports will continue to count towards Google Drive’s storage quota.
2. High quality downloads will count
Previously, the High Quality setting in Google Photos allowed you to upload unlimited photos and videos to Google Drive. However, this means that your photos are compressed to 16 megapixels and the videos are downgraded to 1080p. It’s always amazing for what you get in return.
Unfortunately, that won’t be the case anytime soon. Photos and videos that you back up in high quality will start counting towards your Google Drive storage quota, only those with the original setting. If you manage to keep under the 15GB of free Google Drive storage all the time, then inevitably you will need to upgrade to use the high quality downloads.
Fortunately, any photos you uploaded before June 1, 2021 will not count towards the storage cap. This means that you still have time to save as many high quality photos as possible.
Remember, you’re also compressing your original imports and freeing up space – head to the Google Photos Return and Sync Settings section in the mobile or web app to start converting them.
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If you own a Pixel smartphone, then you are one of the lucky few. Photos and videos that you upload in high quality won’t count even after Google begins its new storage policy. This applies to all models in the Pixel 1 to Pixel 5 range.
3. Upload photos directly to Google Drive
If you upload photos and videos directly to Google Drive, they will be uploaded as is and count towards your storage. Google Photos and Google Drive, despite their storage interdependence, don’t sync the photos and videos that you upload to a particular service. They did it a while ago, but not anymore. So unless you want to store your photos outside of Google Photos for some reason, there’s no reason to upload them to Google Drive.
Additionally, there is something you should note that Google Drive does not have a high quality option setting to download your images in compressed quality (16 megapixels).
Google will count high quality upload settings to your Google Drive storage and this will disappoint many users. Unlimited uploading of photos and videos is one of the key factors that so many people resorted to Google Photos in the first place while still using a Google account on their Android phones and iPhones.
That said, Google Drive is still among the best storage services, with 15GB of free storage and competitive price points in the Google One subscription plan to Google’s credit. Google Photos is a great photo and video manager and probably one of the best cross-platform services you can use. If you’re going to be impacted a lot, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and then decide whether you want to stay or look for alternatives.
Amazon Drive is a great alternative that you should take a look at. Find out how it compares to Google Drive.
Last updated on Dec 21, 2020
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