Fight Google’s data cap with a simple change to Google Photos

Until now, uploading photos on your Android phone has seemed like a perfectly good idea. But beginning in June, 2021, that decision is going to hit you right in the pocketbook, as Google begins to enforce its new storage policy. Blocking photos from uploading to Google Photos, as weird as it sounds, will eventually save you money.

Let us explain. If you take a photo on an Android phone, it automatically uploads itself to the Google cloud, where it’s stored in perpetuity. Today, those photos are stored in what Google calls “high resolution” by default—something close to the original resolution you shot. 

What Google offered in return was an agreement to store every single one of those “high resolution” photos for free, no matter how many there were or how much space they consumed. No longer. Beginning on June 1, every new photo, movie, Google Doc, Sheets, Drawings, Forms or Jamboard will start counting against your Google data cap—which is 15GB by default, as part of the free tier of what Google now calls Google One. Remember, your Google One cap includes Google Drive, Google Photos, and your Gmail email. (An exception applies to all Google Pixel phones. Google will continue to store all photos in high-quality resolution on any Pixel phone for free.)

Let’s be clear on one thing: Until June 1 rolls around and Google’s policy kicks in, upload everything! If you have old photos you want to store on Google’s cloud at the “high resolution” setting, you can—and it will all be grandfathered in. You don’t have to start counting gigabytes until June. But when you do, we have some tips for managing your data to avoid paying Google.

google photos storage estimate Mark Hachman / IDG

Google provides you an estimate of how much cloud storage you have available via Google Photos at

Let’s say you have 10GB of accumulated Gmail email, 2GB of files stored in Google Drive, and 10GB of photos and movies backed up in Google Photos. Are you over your cap? No, if we assume all of your photos are backed up in the “high resolution” format. Google sees only 12GB: 10GB of email, 2GB in Drive.

Beginning in June, however, every new photo, movie, email, or document—or, well, anything—will start counting toward that data cap. Photos and movies take up a lot more data than a simple email, too.

When you hit your limit, you’ll start to receive nagging emails from Google, asking you to pay the oh-so-affordable rate of $1.99 per month ($19.99 annually) for an extra 100GB. If you simply ignore these warnings, Google will start deleting your old photos and movies after two years. It’s a very, very subtle push to encourage you to pay for Google’s services for—let’s face it—the rest of your life.

google one plans Google

Google’s Google One storage plans.

How to block your photos from uploading to Google

That is, unless you do something about it. And it’s super-easy.

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