The Google Pixel 2 Won't Get Unlimited Storage Forever

This week an eagle-eyed Reddit user discovered that Google has set a date in which it won't offer unlimited, lossless storage for Pixel 2 users. Just how much can we expect from them, and what's fair?

First, let's define how it works. To put it simply, if you bought a first-generation Pixel handset (even used) you would get free, unlimited, uncompressed storage. This would be offered through Google Photos, and your original images and 4K videos would be untouched. This doesn't look like it will change.

However, it looks like after 2020, we can expect photos taken with the Pixel 2 phones to be compressed. At first glance, this seems like a raw deal. While this isn't exactly what we’d thought they’d promised, I’m pretty sure most of us won't care. Google's photo compression is actually pretty amazing, and you likely won't see the difference.

The offending disclaimer can be found right on Google's online store.

The New Deal

United States

Free, unlimited original-quality storage for photos and videos taken with Pixel through the end of 2020 and free, unlimited high-quality storage for photos taken with Pixel afterwards.

Canada/Europe

Unlimited original-quality storage for photos and videos taken with Pixel until Jan. 15, 2021, and high-quality storage for all later uploads. Requires Google Account and internet connection.

Basically, if you're using the latest Pixel smartphones, then your photos before 2020 will be untouched. If you go back to look at them, download them or edit them in 2021, they’ll be in their original quality. After that, every new photo you take will be compressed, “high quality” as Google's calling it.

This is the same kind of compression that all Android users experience when they upload to Google Photos. Videos shot in 4K are compressed to 1080p, photos can't exceed 16 megapixels (and are also compressed further). For video, it’s annoying. For photos though, this isn't a bad deal. Like I mentioned above, Google's photo compression is astonishingly good. PhoneArena compared the two, and couldn't really tell the difference.

The Original Pixel

The OG Pixel phones appear to be avoiding this issue. My guess is that after all the hype from the first-generation phones, Google could be stuck with being hypocrites or even falsely advertising. Hell, the phone won't have much first-party support in 2020 anyway. Still, I wouldn't hold my breath that they’ll continue to offer original quality storage for the original Pixel. The Pixel 2 is turning out to be the hypocritical phone of the year, losing it’s headphone jack and now this. Google appears to be perfectly comfortable going back on their principals.

It should also be noted that their biggest competition in this space, Apple, are being more honest about the whole thing. They won't offer much free storage (5 GB compared to 15 GB from Google), but when you pay for it, it comes out cheaper than Google's storage. For $9.99 a month you can get 1 TB with Google, but 2 TB with Apple.

So if original quality is your thing, you’ll either need an original Pixel, or deeper pockets. It was great while it lasted. Do you think you'll be concerned with the 2020 deadline being set for the Pixel 2? Or will you have moved onto the next phone by then?

[via Reddit]

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4 Comments

I don’t see this as an issue at all for a 3 reasons:

1) After 2021, you’ll still have your library of original quality photos that you took before 2021 so you can download them then if you don’t want to keep them on Google Photos.

2) That’s like 4 years away (or less) so there won’t be a ton of people using the 2017 Pixel in 2021. Google may even update their terms then to extend it.

3) And most importantly, even if they don’t extend their terms and people still use the 2017 Pixel, it’s camera is at 12 Megapixel. Currently Google Photos stores EVERYONE’s photos at high quality if it’s 16 Megapixels or lower. So the point is moot. It sounds like Google is so generous with their plan only to Google Pixel owners (it’s a marketing strategy) But anyone from any device using Google Photos can upload their 16 Megapixel photos for free without any degradation in quality. If your camera is over 16 Megapixels you have the option of letting Google downsize to 16 MP or use your available free storage or pay for more.

For video Google will store anyone’s content in it’s original quality if it’s 1080p or lower. If you shoot a ton of 4K video with your Pixel then your footage is still fine and can upload 4K until 2021. After that your footage should still be 4K. BUT THAT’S 4 YEARS OF SHOOTING 4K ON A PIXEL and uploading for free storage. It’s still an amazing deal.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Absolutely agree that it's a great deal, even if you shoot 4K! It should be noted though that the 16MP rule from Google appears to be a bit misleading.

As PhoneArena pointed out:

Original – 12.19 MP; 16.7 MB.
Compressed "High Quality" – 12.19 MP; 1.05 MB.

There's a lot less data being stored, which is both an amazing credit to Google's image compression but also something to take on board. Lucky though, as I'd said above, you can't really notice the difference. And who's dragging their smartphone photos into Lightroom 4 years after they shot them? I'm not sure any pros will notice the difference either.

An alternate interpretation of this clause is that the original-quality storage is only good through 2020, after which all those photos will be downgraded to high-quality for continued storage. i.e. it's not clear whether "through the end of 2020" is limiting "Free, unlimited original-quality storage" or limiting "photos and videos taken with Pixel". See what I mean?

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

I pre-ordered the Pixel XL. This will be my first Android phone. I've been a diehard Apple Fanboy for life. As in my dad worked for Apple and I grew up using Apple computers. Hell, one of my photos was featured on The first Shot on iPhone campaign. But I'm done. My OCD can't handle that horrible notch design, portrait lighting is goofy as hell, same shit battery as always and the phone hasn't changed in design since the iPhone 6. $1000-1200 and you don't get a quick charge cable(extra $70-100). I could care less about faceID and wireless charging. The list goes on and on. I hope all my Android buddies hype is real because I'm pretty much ripping off the band-aid.