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Google Photos warns against using its compressed 'high quality' mode – here’s why

Google Photos
(Image credit: Google)

If you're a regular Google Photos fan, you might have made good use of its 'High Quality' storage mode, which compresses your snaps to save space – but this is no longer recommended, according to a new email Google has sent to some of the service's users.

Google Photos offers two quality options for backing up your photos – ‘High Quality’, which compresses snaps to 16MP to save storage, and ‘Original Quality’, which are stored at the same resolution you took them. But in a recent email sent to some subscribers, Google warns that photos uploaded in ‘High Quality’ images could appear heavily pixelated in comparison to ‘Original’ ones. 

The apparent difference is starkly laid out by a sample image showing the difference that ‘High Quality’ compression makes, with a heavily pixelated bird arguably over-estimating the deterioration it brings.

Google Photos Comparison

(Image credit: Google)

The subscriber email added that "original quality photos preserve the most detail and let you zoom in, crop and print photos with less pixelation".

This comes in slight contrast to Google’s previous claims that its ‘High Quality’ upload option was “near-identical” to original quality. 

Now, while there may be a noticeable difference in detail between 16MP and a 33MP photo, compressed snaps are rarely the pixelated nightmare seen in Google’s comparison. So why might Google Photos now be advising its users against uploading in ‘High Quality’, using the above screenshot as a demonstration?

One Google to rule them all

The likely reason is that Google has plans to phase out Google Photos’ unlimited storage feature from June 1, potentially as a means to get more users to jump on board its Google One subscription plan.

After June 1, all photos uploaded to Google Photos will count towards your 15GB Drive cap. If you want to exceed that 15GB limit, a meager amount for photography enthusiasts, then you’ll have to opt in to Google One or find an alternative service. 

Subscription prices for Google One start at $1.99 / £1.59 / AU$1.99 a month for 100GB of storage space across Google Photos, Google Drive and Gmail, and scales up based on how much storage you require.

If you love making use of Google Photos’ unlimited storage, you still can, at least for the next few months. Just be aware that from June 1, Google will expect you to upgrade to Google One to get more than 15GB of that storage. You should either have a plan in place for that, or consider looking into alternative photo storage solutions.