Bad news, iPhone owners. The Google Photos freebie we reported on last week is apparently just a “bug,” and it’s going away.
If you’re unfamiliar, iPhone owners could actually get free unlimited storage of original-quality photos in Google Photos. In short, it’s because iPhones shoot in HEIC, which is more efficiently compressed than the JPEG format that Google Photos uses.
It wasn’t a great look for Google, however, because it meant that iPhone owners could store their high-quality photos for free while Google Pixel 4 owners couldn’t. (HEIC is available in Android 10 but not currently on new Pixels yet.)
Google must have realized that, and in a statement to Android Police, they say that they are “aware of this bug and are working to fix it.”
But, as the Android-focused tech site notes, it isn’t clear how Google will “fix” this “bug.” Google could, for example, start charging for full-quality HEIC storage. But HEIC images are smaller than JPEG, so it wouldn’t make much sense.
The company could convert HEIC photos to JPEG and then compress them, but the resulting file size would actually be larger than if it left the photos alone. That’s, of course, less efficient and would put more strain on Google’s resources.
Alternatively, it could compress HEIC photos even further using the same format. That may be a happy medium, but isn’t what you’d call “necessary,” since pictures from Pixel devices will still take up more space.
There’s also the question of whether all of this would apply to Android devices shooting in HEIC format, as Samsung devices can and as Google Pixel 4 devices will be able to in the future. Presumably, since Google is going to “fix” this bug, any changes will presumably apply to HEIC in general.
Making your photo storage system less efficient because it’ll work out worse for your competitors is objectively pretty petty. But Google seems to have decided that the move is worth it. It isn’t clear when it’ll “patch” the behavior, however.
For iPhone owners, Google Photos is still a good free option for picture backups — even if your files will end up larger as a result.