Google slashes free media storage to 15GB

Google Drive displayed on a smartphone in front of a multi-coloured umbrella
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google will restrict the online cloud storage capacity for high-quality photos and videos to 15GB from next year as the firm looks to capitalise on the millions of users who have come to rely on the service.

From June 2021, new high-quality content uploaded to Google Photos will count towards a free 15GB storage capacity, with the company making several pricing tiers available to those who need to store more data. The limit will also apply to files that users keep on Drive, specifically Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files.

Google is framing these plans as a way to be able to continue to provide everybody with a great storage experience while keeping pace with the growing demand for its free services.

Currently, files created through Google’s productivity apps, as well as photos smaller than 2,048 x 2,048 pixels, and videos shorter than 15 minutes, don’t count towards the cap. High quality, under the new storage calculations, will include photos larger than 16Mp or videos larger than 1080p, all of which will be optionally compressed.

“For many, this will come as a disappointment. We know. We wrestled with this decision for a long time, but we think it’s the right one to make,” said the firm’s product lead for Google Photos, David Lieb.

“Since so many of you rely on Google Photos as the home of your life’s memories, we believe it’s important that it’s not just a great product, but that it is able to serve you over the long haul. To ensure this is possible not just now, but for the long term, we’ve decided to align the primary cost of providing the service (storage of your content) with the primary value users enjoy (having a universally accessible and useful record of your life).”

More than one billion people rely on Google Photos and Google Drive, Lieb added, uploading more than 28 billion photos and videos every week on top of more than four trillion already uploaded onto the service.

The change will only apply to newly uploaded content staring on 1 June next year, with all existing high-quality content remaining exempt from the storage quota. This includes all content uploaded between now and then.

Users who wish to upgrade to a larger storage plan will have to sign up to the company’s paid-for cloud storage platform Google One, with packages beginning at 100GB, alongside other features including access to Google experts and shared family plans.

Currently, Google One is priced at $1.99 per month for 100GB of storage, $2.99 per month for 200GB, and $9.99 per month for 1TB.

Google is also rolling out of a host of new tools, which the firm hopes will go towards justifying the additional cost for those who need to pay for a higher tier.

Among these tools is software that can make it easier to identify and delete unwanted content, such as blurry photos and long videos, though the firm is set to make more announcements in the coming months. Google has in the last few years leant on AI to improve the functionality of its flagship products, including Gmail and Google Docs.

The firm is also introducing new policies for users who are inactive or over their storage limit across Google’s cloud-based services. Those who are inactive in one or more of these services for two years may see their content deleted in those specific products, while users over their storage limit for two years may see their content deleted across the board.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.