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

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From today, June 1, Google Photos finishes its completely unlimited free storage, and newly uploaded photos count towards the 15 GB data cap that comes with your Google Account, and when you reach that limit … Well, you’ll pay up and get one of the monthly subscriptions to Google One.

And while all of your photos uploaded before June 1st will remain unaffected by these changes (they do not count in the 15 GB cap), some people were disappointed that a fun and free service changes the terms and may require heavier users to pay in the future. And after all, who wants another subscription, right? Especially if you’re already paying for an iCloud or other cloud-based service.

And while for people who are already paying for another cloud storage, it makes sense to just start uploading your photos there and not pay double, then I’m here to tell you that if you are not already paying for cloud storage, bad press , which Google Photos gets, can be misleading and you should think twice before transferring your photos away from Google Photos and to other services.

Here are my reasons for:

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

Google may not have the best track record of 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 renamed to its current form as Google Photos in 2011, and ever since, it has served users well. So unlike previous Google products (we still regret the download of Google Reader), this one will not be shelved anytime soon.
Another benefit of Google Photos is that it works effortlessly across all platforms: You can use Google Photos from a web browser and have a great experience, but you also have Android and iOS apps that also do a great job . In comparison, we have tried alternative solutions that worked fine in an app, but which did not offer such a fast and versatile experience when opened from a browser, and if you use many different devices to access your photos, are this an important consideration.

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

One area where I think Google has really put the bar higher than the competition is just the easy sharing. Sharing photos, groups of photos, and albums is so effortless and intuitive in Google Photos, and it’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 customized privacy settings and all this for a short time!
No need to worry about creating a separate album just to share a specific set of photos, and you also know that the link will appear everywhere on all devices, whether the person has access to it from their phone or from the browser on their computer.

# 3: “High quality” compression in Google Photos is excellent

When configuring Google Photos, you can choose whether 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 to make them look awful, this is not the case with Google Photos.
For example, the 16MP files from my Panasonic Lumix GH4 mirrorless camera are compressed to file sizes of less than 1 MB, but you can hardly notice a drop in quality. We have come a long way in comparing Google Photos “High Quality” versus “Original Quality”, and we found that in order to notice any difference at all, you need to blast photos to a 600% close-up! No one would ever do that, so it’s safe to say that the Google Photos compression algorithm does an excellent job of making your photos smaller, but not inferior in quality.

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

Now I understand that one can feel a little angry when they remove their unlimited free stuff, but if we look objectively, you still get 15 GB of free storage space and that is a lot more than other services offer.
By comparison, the biggest rival in the space, Apple’s iCloud only gives users a modest 5 GB of free storage, which is nothing. And other companies often offer even less: Dropbox only gives you 2GB of storage!
So yes, if you do not have too many photos, the free Google Photos storage space is still the best if you are looking for “free”.

# 5: Search

Google is often bad-mouthed for its often lax standards when it comes to privacy, and recent reports have suggested that the company may have hidden important privacy controls deep inside the menus, making them harder to find and access for regular users. All this is true and important.
At the same time, though, we have to admit that Google is a leader when it comes to search, and when you have a collection of thousands of photos from years and sometimes decades ago, you want them to be well organized and searchable. And yes, Google Photos happens to be the best tool for that.

Closing words

So these are my reasons why, despite the change in Google Photos Terms, I will not switch away. I enjoy Google Photos too much and it has been a reliable home for my photos for years.
But if you’re planning to switch, you may find it interesting to read how our very 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 200 GB of storage. It is not that difficult to configure and with his guidance you will know the experience of using it.

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