Photos - Google Photos 2015-05-29 16-39-00

Update: Google says that the issue has now been fixed and limits have been reapplied.

The new Google Photos service saw its launch last month at Google I/O 2015, and its announcement came with much fanfare thanks to its “unlimited” storage option—which lets you store as many photos and videos as you want for free as long as you’re willing to sacrifice some amount of quality. Now, it looks like some users who have tried to take advantage of this offer are actually hitting an invisible limit…

Users who have uploaded huge numbers of photos are seemingly hitting a limit on uploads. The actual user interface doesn’t tell you that you’ve hit any limit and users are still on the “unlimited plan,” but it seems Google is cutting off uploads after an unknown data limit is passed. Many users across Google+ have reported the problem (via Android Police), expressing—understandable—annoyance that a service that’s advertised as free and unlimited should actually be, well, free and unlimited:

I am one of MANY users who have been hit with a limit of uploads based apparently on fair use. This really needs to be advertised in an official word, as it is causing mass confusion. I cannot share new photos of my cousin who is dying of cancer with family without uploading them to other sites now…. I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this predicament if I had any idea that there was a LIMIT to this unlimited service. I would really appreciate Google being public about this and providing a useful warning if you are approaching this limit!  Sincerely, a paying customer of Google products, services, and early adopter from 2003.

Many users have suggested that moving over to the paid plan in Google Photos, which uses available Google Drive storage space that you pay for, will lift this unspecified data limit. The number of photos uploaded seems to vary between reports, so it seems more likely that this is related to data rather than some unknown photo number limit. After moving over to the 100 GB for $1.99 tier, at least one user’s photos began uploading again. Personally, I’ve spent time uploading my entire photo library to Google Photos—more than 10,000 images—and didn’t run into this problem.

It’s understandable that Google might impose some limit to prevent abuse, and many users on Google+ are speculating that it’s a monthly data cap that will be reset at the end of the month. And, considering these reports are from people who have uploaded upwards of 20,000 photos, not many people are likely to hit that cap. That said, it would be nice if Google would acknowledge this limit exists, and at least warn users or provide a notification so that they can be aware that they need to wait a while before trying again (or upgrade their plan). Unlimited suggests that uploads are unlimited, and when it’s not unlimited, it would be nice to know why.

We’ve reached out to Google for clarification on the issue.

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Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.