Google Photos is a handy way to back up your images. But iPhone users may have another little-known incentive to start using the platform.
In a nutshell, you can get unlimited original quality backups for free on Google Photos as long as you’re using a newer iPhone. Here’s what you should know.
Traditionally, Google Photos offers unlimited photo backups — with a catch. You can store as many photos that you want, but Google will need to compress them. That means they won’t be original quality.
But thanks to a particular format quirk, iPhone users are actually able to store an unlimited amount of original-quality images in Google Photos.
To take advantage of this, you’ll need to make sure that your iPhone is shooting in HEIC.
- Just head to Settings.
- Formats .
- Select High Efficiency. (This is supported on iPhone 7 and later.)
- Then, in Google Photos, head to the Settings section of the app.
- Underneath the Back up & sync heading, make sure to select the High quality (free unlimited storage) option.
All of the photos you shoot on an iPhone 7 or later will be stored in Google Photos at their original quality. And, again, you’ll be able to store an unlimited amount.
How Is This Possible?
If you’re curious, why this quirk works is actually pretty interesting. It really all comes down to Google’s compression technology.
Most modern iPhones shoot in HEIC format, instead of the more universal JPEG format. HEIC, by its very nature, compresses photos much more efficiently than JPEG.
Because of that, it would actually be a waste of Google’s time and processing power to attempt and re-compress those HEIC photos to JPEG. So it doesn’t.
The end result is that you’ll have original-quality HEIC photos because Google knows that they’re efficiently compressed enough and simply leaves them alone.
You won’t have any reduction in resolution or overall image quality. While HEIC isn’t a lossless or RAW format, it’s a bit better than JPEG anyway.
So if you aren’t shooting in HEIC on your iPhone, you may want to start.
Amusingly, this also means that iPhones get unlimited original-quality photo storage by default, while Google Pixel devices don’t. (Although Pixels and other Android handsets can shoot in HEIC, it’s not their default format.)
A Couple of Caveats to This Perk
The primary caveat is that this isn’t technically a feature. That’s likely why Google has never officially confirmed or even acknowledged this behavior.
Because of that, the company may change this behavior in the future or implement some other type of policy to dissuade it. Google, after all, wants people to pay for photo storage.
As an additional note, this only applies to photos. Your videos will still be downgraded to 1080p if you chose to store them in Google Photos.