Google’s Pixel smartphones have some of the best cameras available on any phone. The 2016 model was one of the best available at the time… and the 2017 model is said to have an even better camera.

If you use those cameras to snap a lot of photos, Google also offers a bonus feature: if you use Google Photos to backup pictures taken on your phone, Pixel users get to store an unlimited number of photos at original quality. Anyone using a different phone only gets unlimited storage if they opt for “high quality,” photo storage, which means saved pictures are compressed.

But while the Pixel 2 has a better camera then the first-gen model, it also has something that last year’s phone did not: a limit on that “unlimited” storage.

Google says it’ll let Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL users upload an unlimited number of original-quality photos and videos through the end of 2020 (check the fine print). Google won’t delete those files on January 1st, 2021… but the company will probably either start counting original quality photos against your cloud storage limits at that point or encourage you to switch to high quality.

The company didn’t announce any time limits when it launched the original Pixel. And it turns out, there still aren’t any: Google confirmed to Android Police that there are no plans to cut off original Pixel owners at any point.

Of course, I suspect most folks who spent money on a bleeding edge phone like the Pixel in 2016 don’t really expect to still be using the same phone in 2019 or 2020… but it’s nice to know that if you do have the phone, you still get to keep uploading original-quality images.

That said, I’ve been making use of the “high quality” option on my Nexus 5X for the past year, and I can’t really see any difference between original quality and high quality. Folks with more discerning tastes may notice subtle differences though.

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15 replies on “If you take a lot of photos, the original Pixel has a perk the Pixel 2 does not”

  1. Let’s consider how stupid this is. I have a camera that takes amazing images. I going to upload (safe keeping) less quality images. Therefore, explain the logic (bragging rights) of having a great quality camera? From what i see, you may as well have a shittier camera because you uploading less than full quality images. It’s stupidity at its finest. No offense Brad. I mean if you back up your photos in full, then perhaps this make some sense. But to keep images of lesser quality than the camera can perform? After all you pay for the great camera hardware! Wow great photo! Oh, let me preserve a less quality version for safe keeping. Duh!

    1. They are NOT taking the feature away. They are only making it a timed trial, its basically for 2 years… or until 2020 for FREE. At which point, I think Google expects you to buy an iPhone but probably hopes you stick around for the next Pixel devices. It will however remain free without a time limit for Pixel (#1) owners, as it was advertised last year.

      After that time, I believe you can still have the feature but you must pay for it. They might change pricing so I won’t state how much it is, but you can see here:
      https://cloud.google.com/pricing/

      1. I think my issue is with having a quality image on the phone but keeping less quality images. “Take great photos with our expensive hardware but keep a lower quality photo backed up on our online storage for future reference”. That’s kind of dumb.

        1. Yes, but your issues are unfounded.
          If you post these on social media, the quality is much lower (heavy compression ~1MB) than the “High Quality” (ie/ light-compressed ~4MB) which Google offers free for everyone.

          It’s the Original Quality (ie/ uncompressed >12MP files) will eat a lot of storage very quickly. We’re talking around 10-20MB’s for each photo. If you take 10 photos a day, that’s over 7,000 photos in 2 years. Or if we do some quick napkin maths, we’re talking around 140,000 MB’s (~150GB’s) of storage on Google’s Cloud service.

          That’s A LOT of storage for free for 2 years. People should be happy.
          And not to mention, Google has one of the fastest servers and uses SSD’s in their storage, so you’re getting a premium service… for FREE.

          I have a feeling Google is going to keep offering 2 years free premium storage on their Pixel devices, and if you cared to upgrade to a new Pixel device in the future… you’ll just be given a new 2 year extension. So by that proxy, you could get unlimited/lifetime premium cloud storage for free, as long as you stay loyal to Google.

          The sensible thing to do would be to actually get a 64GB device, and upload the original photos to your computer/back up drives for the future. However, the light-compressed photos already retain a good degree of the quality… so I doubt most people would care.

          If you need the performance of such photos, well, you would instead be using a dedicated camera instead. Use the right tool for the right job.

          1. The concept of keeping (safely backing up) a lesser quality ANYTHING is dumb. Unlimited storage is a goofy concept. Keep the good photos, delete the bad ones, and upload the original photo and not some compromised version because of some pushing by Google. I also swear they reset my settings from original which is another story. “Unlimited” storage with restrictions seems more like a marketing ploy to me. Yes, online storage is going to need a small country for storage facilities to host everyone’s trashy photos that aren’t worth backing up in the first place. Who cleans up their online photos? Photos out the ying yang. I wish Google well with their storage facilities.

        2. I think you’re also equating resolution with quality. See my post above regarding resolution of most phones today being higher than what you can likely use today.

  2. When a single photo takes 8-10MB of storage you can either bump the on-board storage to 64 or 128GB or offer free cloud-based storage. Guess which is cheaper for a company that’s main business is to categorize and store half the information humanity has? Anyways free unlimited storage of any kind is still pretty generous.

    1. Actually the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both have at least 64GB of storage. The first-gen model had 32GB or 128GB options. This year’s Pixels come with 64GB or 128GB.

      As for storing your photos, they’re doing that anywhere, whether in “high quality” or “original quality.” So as long as users continue to use Google Photos to backup their images, Google still gets access to a huge data set that it can analyze to improve its image recognition technology.

  3. Out of curiosity, what are people doing with the high resolution pictures their phones take? I use the Camera FV-5 app so that I can reduce the resolution of pictures to my monitor’s resolution. I almost never print photos and seldom view them even in full screen, so that is all I need.

    1. Keep them for the future. I am actually old enough to have witnessed “The ergonomic Productivity Desktop Resolution” go up from 640×480 to 800×600… to 1024×768… to 1280×1024… etc.

      I’ve also owned smartphones since 240×320 in 4096 colors was concidered state of the art in that space.

      If i had converted all my pictures or videos to fit the “common resolution of the day”, i would be a really sad panda right now.

      We have 1440p Phones right now, and 4K or 5K Monitors are readily available, with some 8K Halo products already on the Market.

      What seems “good enough” right now might feel inadequate in the future. If you keep the originals, nothing is stopping you to resizing them later on, but doing it now and discarding the originals is something you COULD regret later on.

      1. You have a point, but its extremely exaggerated.
        There is a point with photo and video quality where you hit a point of diminishing returns.

        Say with videos; with 24fps, using REC-601 colour, and a lowly 853 x 480p resolution… well it still looks watchable and immersive. When you upgrade that to a video with 30fps, using REC-709, and a 1920 x 1080p resolution things look drastically better. Now, let’s say we went full-blown to 60fps, REC-2100, and a 3840 x 2160p resolution… they get even better.

        The jump in viewable quality for humans from 480p to 1080p is much much more drastic and improved, than going from 1080p to 2160p. However, going by technicals, the latter jump is actually much larger.

        You can actually see a similar jump in video game graphics too. Going from 720p/30fps/Low Settings is much more improved if you jump to 1080p/60fps/High Settings, rather than 2160p/60fps/Ultra Settings… again, the former jump is visually more improved for our perception, however the latter jump is a more demanding jump.

        So if you kept originals from years passed, it might hold up decent today.
        If you kept a compressed version it couldn’t.
        However, while today’s originals will definitely hold up decently years later, its much much more possible that even the compressed media from today might hold up decently again years later.

      2. I appreciate your response, but I agree with Kangal. I could see there would be some pictures that you might want to future-proof, but with the right camera software you can do that by bumping the resolution back up to the native resolution if you wanted. And I agree with Kangal that there are diminishing returns, so even if you have to look at a 1920×1080 image on a 8k monitor, it won’t look that bad, unless maybe that 8k monitor is 50″ big.

        My line of thinking is that rather than engage in a war of whose phones take a higher resolution photo, they should focus more on fighting over whose phone takes a better quality picture based on exposure, color, etc., in the most varying conditions.

  4. I don’t think this is too harsh of a policy. It looks like Google is just limited their future financial risks. I’ll bet money that this is probably something that came from their shareholders.

    It was very good of them to not subject original pixel users to a limit, even though I’m certain their ToS probably gives them the right to.

    1. Shareholders don’t deal with minutiae like this. Almost certainly, Google looked at how existing Pixel customers used the unlimited service and added a time limit to head off overuse of resources down the road.

      1. They just want to gain access eventually to your photos to populate searches or maps places in the future. They want less resource heavy photos for that. The sheep follow their control over your properties. Smarter people realize it’s kind of dumb to upload a shittier quality image (for safe keeping) than what the expensive hardware can actually provide. I admit unlimited storage offering is insane, but the more stupid play is keeping a lesser quality version of anything.

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