While users can still upload Original Quality media to Google Photos with the Pixel 4 – and other devices – the unlimited storage bit does not apply. This is not the first time Google’s removed the original major selling point of the Pixel lineup – it’s just the first time it’s come as a sort of a miniature shock. The first time this happened, it was with the Pixel 3a.
With the release of the Google Pixel, we saw what appeared to be a feature promise that Google wasn’t entirely prepared to keep. As we outlined back in October of 2017, the Google Pixel featured “Unlimited original quality storage for all photos and videos uploaded from the Pixel phone.” That included media captured by the camera, captured in a screenshot, or downloaded from another app. It was like the wild west of free uploads to Google Photos.
That was October 2016 when the Google Pixel was released, then in October 2017 we did the outline above. The outline above was released after the release of the Google Pixel 2. With the release of the Google Pixel 2, Google started to add limits. On October 6th of 2017, the Google Store had the limit of “through the end of 2020” for “free, unlimited original-quality storage for photos and videos taken with Pixel.”
Fast forward to October 2018, and we’ve got a bit of a change. With the launch of the Pixel 3, limits started to apply to the original Pixel. The edits made to Google’s fine print at that point limited the original Pixel’s uploads to: “Unlimited online original quality storage of photos/videos taken with your Pixel through 2020.”
So that took out the part with the uploads from other apps, screenshots, etcetera, and added the time limit to 2020. At the same time, the Pixel 2 series got an extension of the same sort of storage through the year 2021.
The Pixel 3 launch included “free unlimited online original-quality storage for all photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos from Pixel 3 through 1/31/2022.” So that was a strange change – especially since it was listed right alongside the other two phone storage limits in the Google Store online.
The Latest Update
Here in October of 2019, we see several MORE changes to the terms. The original Pixel text reads: “Unlimited original quality storage of photos/video taken with your Pixel, high quality for all other photos/videos.” And the limit date has been removed entirely!
The Pixel 2 now says “free, unlimited original-quality storage for photos and videos taken with Pixel through the end of 2020.” So we’re back to 2020, even though we’d switched to 2021 last year.
Pixel 3 says “free unlimited online original-quality storage for all photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos from Pixel 3 through 1/31/2022.” Oddly the Pixel 3 listing also includes the text “Photos and videos uploaded before 1/31/2022 will remain free at original-quality.”
In the text posted to Google’s Pixel site in their Google Store today (as shown above), both the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 4 include no mention of original-quality photos or videos. They do, however “offer free unlimited online storage for all photos and videos uploaded in high-quality.” We saw this same sort of thing when the Pixel 3a was released and assumed it’d only be for the lower-cost Pixel – now it seems as though the original-quality free-for-all is over… for everything but the original Pixel!
We assume that this means that the original Google Pixel is now the only smartphone in the world where users get full original-size uploads to Google Photos forever. But we’re checking with Google to make sure of that, once again.