Until now, uploading photos on your Android phone seemed like a great idea. But starting June 2021, that decision will hit you in the wallet right away as Google starts enforcing its new storage policy. Blocking photos from uploading to Google Photos, as weird as it may sound, can save you money in the end.
Let’s explain. When you take a photo on an Android phone, it automatically uploads itself to the Google cloud, where it is stored forever. Today, those photos are saved by default in what Google calls “ high resolution, ” something close to the native resolution you took.
What Google offered in return was an agreement to store each of those “high resolution”
Let’s be clear on one thing: upload everything until June 1, and Google’s policy takes effect! If you have old photos that you want to store in the Google cloud with the ‘high resolution’ setting, you can – and you’ll all get a grandfather in them. You don’t have to count gigabytes until June. But if you do, we have some tips on how to manage your data to avoid paying Google.
Let’s say you have 10 GB of collected Gmail email, 2 GB of files stored in Google Drive, and 10 GB of photos and movies backed up in Google Photos. Are you over your cap? No, if we assume that all your photos are backed up in “high resolution” format. Google only sees 12 GB: 10 GB of email, 2 GB in Drive.
But starting June, every new photo, movie, email, or document – or well, whatever – counts toward that data cap. Photos and movies take one a lot of more data than a simple e-mail.
When you hit your limit, you’ll start receiving nagging emails from Google asking you to pay the oh-so-affordable rate of $ 1.99 per month ($ 19.99 per year) for an additional 100 GB. If you just ignore these warnings, Google will launch remove your old photos and movies after two years. It’s a very, very subtle push to encourage you to, let’s face it, pay for Google’s services for the rest of your life.
How to prevent your photos from being uploaded to Google
Unless you do something about it. And it is super easy.
Open the Photos app on your phone and click your user icon in the top right corner.
A small menu will open showing you what your photos are being synced to and how much of your phone’s storage is already stored in the cloud. What we want to do is prevent further backups so the next step is to click Photo settings.
At the top of the Settings menu is an option, Backup and sync. Click on it and there is a toggle to turn off this functionality. That is it!
When you return to the main Photos page, your user icon will display a tiny cloud with a line through it that may just be visible. This tells you your photos are not will be backed up.
(Note: You can still see the photos on your phone in the Google Photos app. It just won’t be backed up.)
Back up the photos from your phone to other cloud services
There are alternatives to Google Photos.
In any case, on Android, Microsoft’s OneDrive offers the most useful cloud alternative, as the app can be automatically set up to back up photos and movies. The free version offers only 5 GB of free storage space before Microsoft also demands payment. (If you’re already paying for Microsoft 365, though, you’re probably a gold one. Use that instead.) Otherwise, you’ll want to use the OneDrive app on Windows and simply cut and paste your photos from OneDrive and transfer them to a PC or an external disk.
Unfortunately, Box does not offer automatic photo backup on Android, but you can “share” photos from your camera roll to the Box cloud. (There is a separate app for iOS called Box Capture.) The free tier offers 10 GB of storage.
Dropbox is much more convenient, as it also has a mobile app that can upload and sync your entire photo gallery while it works. But Dropbox only offers 2 GB for free.
At this point, you can just shrug and add Google’s monthly fee on top of your Netflix, Disney +, Hulu, ESPN +, ISP, and any other service and plan you’re already paying for. But if you don’t want to give in to Google, you don’t have to!
Update 9:25 a.m.ET: Clarification of Google’s Pixel phone exemption.