Google Photos storage won’t be free. Now what?

Almost five and a half years ago, I wrote a post for Yahoo Tech about the launch of the new, free Google Photos service that ran under the headline “Will Google Really Store All Your Photos Forever?” Wednesday, Google answered that question: No, it won’t. At least not for free.

That response came in a corporate post from Google Photos vice president Shimrit Ben-Yair announcing the end of the unlimited-with-imperceptible-compression picture storage that Google had touted at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco in a simpler time:

Starting June 1, 2021, any new photos and videos you upload will count toward the free 15 GB of storage that comes with every Google Account or the additional storage you’ve purchased as a Google One member.

I don’t have to worry about this just yet. Beyond “only” having squirreled away 4.4 gigabytes of images and video on Google Photos–a rate of accumulation that Google estimates won’t push me past that 15 GB threshold for another year–my Pixel 3a phone entitles me to continued free backup from that device.

But at some point, I’ll retire that phone and may need to make some budgetary decisions. My USA Today colleague Jefferson Graham outlined the major alternatives in a post Wednesday. Leaving out Apple’s Android-excluded iCloud and assuming yearly discounts, here are the cheapest options:

  • Amazon (unlimited storage, included with $119/year Prime Account)
  • Dropbox (2 TB, $119.88/year)
  • Flickr (unlimited, $60/year)
  • Google (100 GB, $19.99/year)
  • Microsoft (100 GB, $23.88/year)

As it happens, I’m already paying for three of those–I’m an Amazon captive like everybody else, I’ve paid for Flickr Pro since 2011, and I subscribe to the 1 TB tier of Microsoft 365 for easy backup of my Windows laptop. (I also pay Google for 100 GB of storage for my G Suite work account, but that’s separate from the everyday Google account I use on my Android phone.)

I already have Flickr set to back up my photos–although the app only does that when I open it, not in the background–so that would seem the logical fallback option. That service also offers the advantage of existing outside the orbits of the tech giants. But although Flickr has worked to apply some machine-learning techniques to photo searches, it’s nowhere as good as Google at finding photos without a human-written title or description: A search for “eggs” in Google Photos yields 19 photos, only two of which don’t feature actual eggs. On Flickr, that nets me one photo, a close-up of fingertips.

So the easiest choice for me, for now, is to change nothing and hope I can stay under that 15 GB limit. One thing I will do, and which you can as well to free up some space: Clean out your Gmail by searching for and deleting messages from certain senders older than a set number of days, weeks or months (as I told USA Today readers back in 2012, when daily-deal messages were a serious consumer of inbox space).

But maybe I’m wrong. Here’s your chance to show that: Take the survey below and then leave a comment explaining your choice.

Weekly output: Apple One, Apple’s September news, TikTok and WeChat ban, TikTok-Oracle deal

Having Apple news play such a large role in my work this week reminded me a little of older, perhaps simpler times. Having the Trump administration’s clumsy attempts to suppress TikTok and WeChat eat up much of the rest of the past several days made it clear that we live in different times.

9/15/2020: Apple As A Service: With Apple One, Life In Its Orbit Comes With A Monthly Price Tag, Forbes

My take on Apple’s venture into selling bundles of its services: By making iCloud backup the least-generous part of the two cheaper Apple One plans, Apple is putting the entertainment cart before the storage horse.

9/17/2020: SmartTechCheck Podcast (9-16-20), Mark Vena

I returned to the podcast of one of my tech-analyst friends to unpack Apple’s Tuesday announcements.

9/18/2020: Trump’s Partial TikTok And WeChat Ban Tip-Toes Into Chinese-Style Censorship, Forbes

In addition to letting me vent about the unhelpfulness of the Trump administration’s attempt to punish these two mobile apps, this post provided a useful demonstration of the limits of Twitter to promote a story. As in, having people with a combined follower total well into the hundreds of thousands tweet or retweet links to the post has yet to get its page-view total into four digits.

9/20/2020: What Trump’s TikTok deal means for privacy, Al Jazeera

I asked my interpreter upfront how you’d say “crony capitalism” in Arabic, and then the host only asked about what this deal would further protect the privacy of TikTok users. My answer: it doesn’t appear to do any such thing.

Here’s my Web-services budget

The annual exercise of adding up my business expenses so I can plug those totals into my taxes gave me an excuse to do an extra and overdue round of math: calculating how much I spend a year on various Web services to do my job.

The result turned out to be higher than I thought–even though I left out such non-interactive services as this domain-name registration ($25 for two years) and having it mapped to this blog ($13 a year). But in looking over these costs, I’m also not sure I could do much about them.

Google One

Yes, I pay Google for my e-mail–the work account hosted there overran its 15 gigabytes of free storage a few years ago. I now pay $19.99 a year for 100 GB. That’s a reasonable price, especially compared to the $1.99 monthly rate I was first offered, and that I took too long to drop in favor of the newer, cheaper yearly plan.

Microsoft Office 365

Getting a Windows laptop let me to opting for Microsoft’s cloud-storage service, mainly as a cheap backup and synchronization option. The $69.99 annual cost also lets me put Microsoft Office on one computer, but I’ve been using the free, open-source LibreOffice suite for so long, I have yet to install Office on my HP. Oops.

Evernote Premium

This is my second-longest-running subscription–I’ve been paying for the premium version of my note-taking app since 2015. Over that time, the cost has increased from $45 to $69.99. That’s made me think about dropping this and switching to Microsoft’s OneNote. But even though Microsoft owns LinkedIn, it’s Evernote that not only scans business cards but checks LinkedIn to fill in contact info for each person.

Flickr Pro

I’ve been paying for extra storage at this photo-sharing site since late 2011–back when the free version of Flickr offered a punitively-limited storage quota. This cost, too, has increased from $44.95 for two years to $49.99 a year. But now that Yahoo has sold the site to the photography hub SmugMug, the free tier once again requires serious compromises. And $50 a year doesn’t seem that bad, not when I’m supporting an indie-Web property instead of giving still more time to Facebook or Google.

Private Internet Access

I signed up for this virtual-private-network service two years ago at a discounted rate of $59.95 for two years, courtesy of a deal offered at Techdirt. Absent that discount, I’d pay $69.95, so I will reassess my options when this runs out in a few months. Not paying for a VPN service, however, is not an option; how else am I supposed to keep up on American news when I’m in Europe?

LastPass Premium

I decided to pay for the full-feature version of this password manager last year, and I’m already reconsidering that. Three reasons why: The free version of LastPass remains great, the premium version implements U2F two-step verification in a particularly inflexible way, and the company announced last month that the cost of Premium will increase from $24 a year to $36.

Combined and with multi-year costs annualized, all of these services added up to $258.96 last year. I suspect this total compares favorably to what we spend on news and entertainment subscriptions–but that’s not math I care to do right now.

Weekly output: cloud storage, Facebook’s 2019

I hope your holidays have involved a minimum of tech support–and if they did, it was of the sort that allowed you to declare victory and accept compliments from relatives in time for dinner.

USAT cloud-services post12/25/2018: How to match a cloud service for all your devices, USA Today

I marked my seventh anniversary of writing for USAT in a subpar way. We had to correct this column because I swapped the free-storage allotments of Microsoft and Google, even though I pay each company for extra storage because their no-charge tiers weren’t enough. Then we tweaked it further to reflect Dropbox offering a discount for yearly billing.

12/28/2018: 2 toxic storylines for Facebook won’t go away in 2019, Yahoo Finance

I wrote this year-in-preview post in part to take yet another whack at Facebook for its fumbling responses to its privacy failings and obvious violations of its rules. But along the way, I kept getting angrier about its continued addiction to the Silicon Valley cult of engagement. Facebook–and Google, while I’m at it–needs to stop acting like a startup growth-hacking its way to traction, consequences be damned.