Google Photos ends free unlimited storage, but I will keep on using it

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Google Photos ends free unlimited storage, but you probably should not switch away
Starting today, June 1st, Google Photos is ending its totally unlimited free storage and newly uploaded photos will count towards the 15GB data cap that comes with your Google account, and once you reach that limit... well, you'd need to pay up and get one of the monthly Google One subscription plans.

And while all of your photos uploaded before June 1st remain unaffected by these changes (they don't count towards the 15GB cap), some people were disappointed that a fun and free service is changing its terms and conditions, and will possibly require heavier users to pay in the future. And after all, who wants yet another subscription, right? Especially, if you are already paying for an iCloud or some other cloud based service.

And while for folks that are already paying for a different cloud storage, it makes sense to just start uploading your photos there and not pay up double, I am here to tell you that if you're not already paying for cloud storage, all the bad press that Google Photos is getting can be misleading and you should think twice before transferring your images away from Google Photos and into other services.

Here are my reasons why:

#1: Google Photos is faster and more convenient than rivals

Google might not have the best track record with maintaining some of its products, but Google Photos is different. It has been around for years: first as Picasa Web in the 2000s and then it was rebranded to its current form as Google Photos in 2011, and ever since then it has served users well. So unlike previous Google products (we still lament the demise of the Google Reader), this one is not getting shelved any time soon.

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Another advantage of Google Photos is that it works effortlessly across all platforms: you can use Google Photos from a web browser and get stellar experience, but you also have the Android and iOS apps that also do a great job. In comparison, we have tried alternative solutions which worked fine in an app, but didn't offer such a quick and versatile experience when accessed from a browser, and if you use a lot of different devices to access your photos, this is an important consideration.

#2: Google Photos makes sharing photos far easier than other services

One area where I think Google has truly set the bar higher than the competition is just the ease of sharing. Sharing photos, groups of photos and albums is so effortless and intuitive in Google Photos, and that's just not something other services can match. For example, you can easily hand pick a few photos and create a web link, you can have custom privacy settings and all of that momentarily!

No need to worry about creating a separate album just to share a particular set of images and you also know that the link will be universally seen across all devices, whether the person is accessing it from their phone or from the browser on their computer.

#3: Google Photos "High Quality" compression is excellent

When you set up Google Photos, you can select whether you want to upload "High Quality" aka compressed files or "Original Size" files. While compression is a bad word these days and many services such as Facebook Messenger compress images so that they look terrible, this is not the case with Google Photos.

For example, the 16MP files from my Panasonic Lumix GH4 mirrorless camera get compressed to file sizes of less than 1MB yet you can barely notice any drop in quality. We have gone into great lengths comparing Google Photos "High Quality" vs "Original Quality", and we found that in order to notice any difference whatsoever you have to blow up the photos to a 600% close-up! Nobody would ever do that, so it's safe to say that the Google Photos compression algorithm do an excellent job making your photos smaller, but not worse in quality.

#4: 15GB of free storage is still lots more than others

Now, I get it, one can feel a bit angry when they take away their unlimited free stuff, but if we look objectively, you still get 15GB of free storage and that is a lot more than other services offer.

In comparison, the biggest rival in the space, Apple's iCloud only gives users a paltry 5GB of storage space for free, which is nothing. And other companies often offer even less: Dropbox only gives you 2GB of storage!

So yes, if you don't have too many photos, the free Google Photos storage is still the best one around, if you're looking for "free".

#5: Search

Google is often bad-mouthed for its often lax standards when it comes to privacy, and most recently reports have suggested the company might have hidden important privacy controls deep into the menus, making them harder to find and access for regular users. All of that is true and important.

However, at the same time, we have to admit that Google is the leader when it comes to search and when you have a collection of thousands of photos from years and sometimes decades ago, you want to have them well organized and searchable. And yes, coincidentally Google Photos is the best tool for that.

Final words

So these are my reasons why despite the change in Google Photos terms, I will not be switching away. I enjoy Google Photos too much and it's been a reliable home to my images for years.

However, if you plan on switching, you might find it interesting to read how our own Peter K broke the chains of monthly subscription fees and built a home NAS cloud server as a Google Photos alternative with more than 200GB of storage. It's not all that hard to set up and with his guidance you will know the experience of using it.

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