A close look at Google Photo's unlimited storage offer
Google launched the new Photos application and web service yesterday as a standalone service cutting its link to the company's own Google+ social networking service in the progress.
Unlimited free storage for photos and videos was without doubt the most important announcement the company made yesterday.
The offer comes with a catch though as storage is only provided for free if certain requirements are met.
- Photos up to 16 megapixels don't count against the storage quota.
- Videos of a resolution up to 1080p don't count against the quota either.
The new Photos service supports options to compress photos and videos automatically if they don't meet those requirements so that users of it don't have to worry about resolution or file size.
If your camera creates 36 megapixel photos for instance, they will be converted automatically to a lower resolution if you have selected the unlimited storage option (Google calls it the High Quality option and displays a prompt to you on first run both on the web and in the app about it).
Note: Compressed versions of photos are automatically created regardless of the photo's size. You can test this easily by uploading a larger photo using the application or web service. If you download the photo again using browser controls (right-click > save image as), you download the compressed version to your system. The original size is only downloaded if you select the download button in the web interface.
What happens when you upload a photo that is larger than 16 megapixels?
When you upload an image to Google Photos that is larger than 16 megapixels, it will be converted automatically by the service if you have selected the unlimited storage option.
A test upload of a 62 Megabyte image with a 6200x6200 resolution was compressed by Google Photos automatically to a 4000x4000 resolution and a size of 4 Megabyte. This falls in line with the 16 megapixel limitation of the service as the maximum resolution for 16MP images is 4920x3264.
This means that the original photo won't be stored on Google Photos, only compressed versions of it will be.
What can you do if you want some photos to be uploaded in their original size?
If you want photos to be uploaded without compression, then you need to switch the quality preference on the Google Photos website or in the application.
Open https://photos.google.com/settings on the website and switch to "original" there.
The setting is saved automatically account-wide. This means that you cannot use device-specific upload size settings.
If you are using the mobile application, do the following to change the upload size:
- Tap on the menu icon in the application and select Settings from the menu that opens up.
- Select Back up & sync when the main settings page opens.
- You find upload size listed as one of the options on the next page.
- Tap on it and switch between high quality and original as you see fit.
While some mobile devices support larger resolutions and videos, most don't right now. This means in turn that most users will benefit from the free storage option that Google Photos offers without having to worry about backing up the original photo or video using a different service since the original will be stored on Google Photos as well.Advertisement