Google Photos to stop offering free, unlimited storage in 2021

12 Nov 2020

Image: © sharafmaksumov/

Google Photos has informed users that it will no longer offer free, unlimited storage of ‘high quality’ photos from 1 June 2021.

Google Photos, considered a lifeline for those who like to take a lot of photos but have limited phone storage, is set to undergo a major change that will limit what’s available to free users.

In a blog post, Google said that since Google Photos was launched five years ago, more than 4trn photos and videos have been uploaded to its cloud service. But starting from 1 June 2021, free, unlimited storage of “high quality” photos and videos to the cloud will be capped at 15GB. Photos and videos backed up before the deadline will not count towards the 15GB limit.

Those looking to avail of more than 15GB of image storage after this deadline will need to sign up for a Google One account. In Ireland, this provides at least 100GB of cloud storage at a cost of €1.99 a month or €19.99 a year.

Backing up of “original quality” photos already counts towards users’ storage caps, and will continue to count toward the 15GB of free storage across a Google Account.

However, Google has created an incentive for snap-happy Pixel phone owners, as high-quality photos uploaded from these devices will not be impacted by the new limit.

‘We know this is a big shift’

“This change allows us to keep pace with the growing demand for storage,” said Google Photos’ vice-president, Shimrit Ben-Yair.

“And, as always, we uphold our commitment to not use information in Google Photos for advertising purposes. We know this is a big shift and may come as a surprise, so we wanted to let you know well in advance and give you resources to make this easier.”

In an email sent to users, Google added that it didn’t “take this decision lightly”. The company has created a page that estimates how long your free storage will last based on your current usage. It will also send a number of alerts and warnings to users ahead of the June deadline should they approach the 15GB cap.

A new storage management tool will be launched in June 2021 in the Photos app to manage backed-up photos and videos and delete any that might not be worth keeping, such as blurry or dark shots.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, continues to pull in significant revenue from its cloud division, which earned $3.4bn in the last quarter.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic