Having recently taken away its best feature, Google Photos is now trying to convince us that it was no good in the first place and has warned users of the consequences.
In a recent subscriber email, the Google Photos team has outlined new premium editing features available exclusively to its paying Google One customers. However, the email also contains a somewhat surprising section encouraging users to use up more of their storage quota by switching from High Quality to Original Quality uploads or risk seemingly dire consequences
According to the email, “Original quality photos preserve the most detail and let you zoom in, crop and print photos with less pixelation.” While this statement is objectively true, it is at odds with what Google has told us in the past about its High Quality option.
At its 2015 launch, Google Photos creator Anil Sabharwal promised that High Quality uploads offered “near-identical visual quality” when compared to your original photos.
But now Google wants us to see a seemingly huge difference in quality between the two settings and to be willing to pay extra for it. It seems “Original Quality” is now suddenly something for which we should all be willing to pay extra.
Here is the image Google has used to show the difference between Original Quality and High Quality:
So, do the two quality settings offer near-identical visual quality as originally promised, or do High Quality images actually look like a pixelated mess above when compared to the originals? Should you really switch to Original Quality as Google suggests and pay more for the additional storage it will require?
High quality images are restricted to 16 megapixels for photos or 1080p resolution for video and free to store on the service until June 2021. Original quality uploads, on the other hand, come at whatever resolution your camera was set to, which can often produce larger files exceeding the 16-megapixel/1080p limit. These larger files consume the user’s storage quota and require a Google One storage plan to be purchased once the initial 15GB of free storage has run out.
If you’re concerned about losing quality if you don’t switch over to Original Quality, then don’t worry. It is important to stress that Google’s example image is absolutely not representative of the difference you will actually see between the two quality settings. Most people probably won’t notice the difference at all.
On the other hand, cameras have come a long way since 2015 and if you made the decision to stick with High Quality back then, you may want to reconsider that option for a moment if you have a new phone with much higher specs that you are actually using.
If, for example, you’ve started shooting a lot of video in 4K, or even 8K, then you may want to put a plan in place to preserve those in original quality. With photos, it’s a little different: The iPhone 12 Pro Max, for example, comes with a 12-megapixel main sensor which fits under the 16-megapixel limit. However, if your phone offers a high-resolution option like a 108-megapixel mode it’s a different story.
By all means, have a think about your quality options, but don’t be fooled by Google’s pixelated bird warning. You’ll probably be fine sticking with High Quality.
Follow @paul_monckton on Instagram