Google’s Magic Eraser Comes to iPhone (With a Catch)

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In 2021, Google followed the trail first blazed by Apple, unveiling its Pixel 6 lineup with a custom-designed chip: the Google Tensor. To demonstrate how capable this new chip was, Google baked some new machine-learning features into Android that were exclusive to the Tensor-powered Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

The most popular of these features was Magic Eraser, a tool for automatically removing unwanted people or objects from photos. It was so clever and well done that it made our wish list for iOS 16. Sadly, though, while Apple did add some cool new photo features that went the other way, letting you lift out foreground objects, we didn’t see anything like Google’s Magic Eraser.

The good news, though, is that it looks like you’ll no longer need to switch teams and buy a Pixel phone if you want this feature. This week Google announced that it’s bringing Magic Eraser and some of the other exclusive AI-powered tools to the standard Google Photos app — for both Android and iPhone users.

Unfortunately, Google is still attaching a price tag to these tools. While it’s not nearly as expensive as buying a Pixel phone, you will need to be a Google One subscriber to get access to Magic Eraser and the other AI functions.

What is Google One?

For those who may not be familiar, Google One is effectively Google’s version of iCloud+, bundling storage upgrades for services such as Gmail and Google Drive with other benefits like a VPN. Now, Google is also rounding that out with some new features in Google Photos.

Google One VPN1

This isn’t quite the cash grab it may seem, though. After all, anyone serious about Google Photos is probably already a Google One subscriber. While Google’s free 15GB storage plan is more generous than Apple’s paltry 5GB, it’s still not enough to store any real amount of photos, especially after Google stopped offering free unlimited storage a couple of years ago.

Google One plans start at $2/month for 100GB of storage, and Magic Eraser and the other new AI tools will be available to all Google One subscribers at any level, much like Apple provides the full suite of iCloud+ features even to folks on its cheapest $1/50GB plan.

Naturally, those with a Pixel phone will still get all these Photos features for free, much like Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro users can take advantage of the Google One VPN at no extra cost.

Basically, Google is only offering these tools for folks who are serious about using Google Photos. That’s fair, since there are lots of other apps on the App Store that can do similar things and are far easier to deal with than a full library app like Google Photos.

Magic Eraser, HDR Effects, and Collages

In addition to Magic Eraser, which is a handy tool for removing everything from photo bombers to power lines, Google is also adding a new HDR video effect and some exclusive collage styles.

Magic Eraser will also include the Camouflage feature, which lets you change the colour of objects in your photos rather than removing them entirely. This helps them blend in more naturally without distracting from the main subject of your photos.

An HDR effect has been available for static photos for a while now, but Google is also bringing it to videos stored in your Google Photos library, so you can enhance the brightness and contrast in your videos with a single tap, making them look much more balanced and professional.

Google One subscribers will also get access to some exclusive designs for putting together collages of photos, along with the ability to apply collage styles to a single image.

While we haven’t seen anything quite like Magic Eraser from Apple yet, iOS gains some cool new photo features each year, and best of all, these tools aren’t usually limited to the Photos app — iOS 16’s “lift subject” feature works on photos in Safari, Mail, and third-party apps that use the system photo viewer. So, there’s little doubt that iOS 17 will also have some exciting new tools for us to play with.

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