Google made a game-changing announcement today when it comes to how you store and access your photos online. From now on, Google Photo users on Android, iOS and desktop will have free unlimited storage for photos 16MP and under, and for videos 1080p and under.
Compare that to Apple’s iCloud, which charges a whopping $240 per year for 1TB of iCloud storage, and you can see how this is a big deal.
You can upload photos and video with higher resolutions than the 16MP/1080p limit, so HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3 users can rest easy. If your picture is too large, Google will simply compress it down to fit within the size restriction.
Google’s offering here is for photos and videos only, making it difficult to draw a direct comparison between Google Photos and iCloud. Still, many users of both iOS and Android will find the majority of their meagre free storage options filled by thousands of photos. For the average user, cloud storage is about pics. This is a huge win for Google.
Search by context
The algorithms behind Google Photos are so complex that you can search for things like “rock climbing” or “baseball” and, in theory, it can pull up photos containing those elements without you ever telling it what the photos were about.
A search of “beach” might turn up pictures of you at the beach, “beach, Sydney” would show sun-filled photos of your holiday to Australia.
Google VP Bradley Horowitz admits that the technology isn’t perfect yet, but with the kind of mass input Google is expecting it shouldn’t be too long before the program can teach itself to recognise places and activities with alarming accuracy.
How can Google afford this?
Google is getting far more out of this deal than you are. By creating the go-to place for limitless photo storage, organising and viewing, it can learn an enormous amount of information about you, your life and the people you choose to spend time with.
Those handy search algorithms? They can easily be utilised to reinforce the already-massive amount of information Google already has about you.
At the end of the day Google is a company that charges for advertising slots. The more information it has about you, the more it can charge for targeted ads.
If that sounds creepy, it’s been going on a long time. Google and other companies already follow you around the web with re-targeted ads. This way they’ll just be a little more accurate.
The unsung hero
In all of this, one tiny feature has been breezed over far too flippantly: swipe to select.
Once you download the app, it will run you through a few quick swipe, tap and hold commands to get you going. By far and away the most exciting thing about Google Photos, after unlimited storage, is how easy it is to select photos en masse.
All you have to do is tap and hold, then slide your finger. Sliding to the left or right selects individual photos along that row. Once you get to the end, swipe downwards and you'll select every single photo of the next row, and the next. Then you can just release your finger and tap the individual photos you want to keep (to unselect them) and hit delete.
If you're like us, you have hundreds, if not thousands of useless pictures clogging up your gallery. In about five minutes just now, I managed to delete a little over 500 pics, none of which I will ever miss. It's almost addicitve.