google photos pixel

Google Photos is ending its perk of free unlimited storage starting on June 1, 2021. It was a huge selling point for the service for years, which, understandably, has many wishing they could keep it. The good news, though, is that Google Pixel owners will still be eligible for a few Photos perks. Let’s break it down.

What perks will current Pixels get?

Google has long made a point of enhancing its various services on Pixel phones, and really, that shouldn’t come as any surprise. Google Photos was a huge selling point, especially of the first-generation Pixel device, with unlimited full quality storage for life. Subsequent releases lessened that offer, but every Pixel to date still retains a promise that no other device does — unlimited storage for life.

Here’s what each generation of Pixel still offers, even with Google’s storage changes.

Google Pixel/XL

Full quality backups for life

Google Pixel XL

The original Pixel phone gets the best deal when it comes to storage. Google’s aggressive push to make this phone a hit out of the gate resulted in the promise of unlimited storage at original quality “for life.” That means that, as long as the phone turns on, you can back up any pictures or videos at full resolution without paying a dime for storage.

Of course, that deal won’t truly last forever. Software support ended over two years ago, and eventually, the hardware of original Pixel phones will give out. In the meantime, though, the original Pixel and Pixel XL still have really good cameras that make it easy to capture memories without worrying about the storage needed.

Google Pixel 2/XL

Unlimited ‘Storage Saver’

pixel 2 xl Google Camera reviews

Google’s second generation of Pixel brought the promise of unlimited original quality backup, but unlike its prequel, that perk came with a time limit. In January 2021, original quality backups for the Pixel 2 series ended.

Going forward, though, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will retain unlimited “Storage Saver” backups. That’ll compress pictures, but the storage will be unlimited until the phone dies.

Google Pixel 3/XL

Full quality through 2022, ‘Storage Saver’ after

google pixel 3 xl camera

If you own a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, either phone will come with a similar perk to what Pixel 2 offered. Full quality backups are indeed offered with unlimited storage, but only for a certain period of time. That offer, as previously announced, ends on January 31, 2022. After that date, any full quality backups count toward your account storage.

Like every other Pixel released so far, though, Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will retain unlimited “Storage Saver” backups for the life of either phone. As long as it’s working, compressed backups will be totally free of charge.

Google Pixel 3a, 4/XL, 4a/5G, Pixel 5

Unlimited ‘Storage Saver’

Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 camera bumps

For most of Google’s phones, the only perk for free storage is unlimited backups of compressed photos. The renamed “Storage Saver” tier offers backups at up to 16MP with compression that cuts down on the overall size of the image. Generally, these photos drop to just 1-2MB when compressed.

Google offers this storage tier for free on Pixel 3a, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5. The offer is active for the life of the device. Any original quality backups from these devices, though, counts toward your account storage quota.

What about future Pixel phones?

The burning question right now is how future Pixels will be affected when it comes to storage. Unlimited storage, even with lesser quality, is a big perk, and one that could genuinely sell devices.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Google intends to keep this up going forward. In November 2020, Google confirmed that future Pixel phones won’t get unlimited storage to multiple publications. So, sad as it may be, future Pixels will be on the same level as everyone else when it comes to storage on Google Photos. Yes, you should expect this policy to apply on Pixel 5a and Pixel 6.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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