Google Photos is making it easier to free up space for your pictures and videos — here’s how

Google Photos app on a smartphone screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s really easy to fill up your phone’s storage with photos and videos. In a time when microSD card support is rarer and rarer, it means the cloud can be a lifesaver. But what’s to stop you eating through your storage allowances in the exact same way? That’s where Google Photos’ storage saver feature comes in.

The goal of storage saver is to free up space in your Google cloud storage, by reducing the quality of backed up photos — lowering the amount of storage they need in the process. So far this feature has only been available on desktop, but it looks like it’ll be making the jump to Android in the near future.

Android Authority spotted this during an APK teardown of the latest version of the Google Photos Android app. The code references Google’s storage saver feature, with dialogue mentioning users being able to choose the quality of photos that are backed up to the cloud. 

However, reducing the quality is a permanent change, so while you will save storage space it means your photos won’t look as detailed as they were when you took them. Which is exactly how storage saver works on the web right now. Presumably that means photos will be reduced to 16MP, and videos downgraded to 1080p. 

It’s also worth noting that this change covers everything backed up to your Google Photos account. So there’s no picking and choosing which files get downgraded, while keeping some at their original quality. While it would be very nice to do that, it’s not something Google has offered at the time of writing. Google also limits compression to once per day, which should be fine for most people.

Reducing the quality is a permanent change, so while you will save storage space it means your photos won’t look as detailed as they were when you took them.

Judging from the code this change just means Android users will be able to tell Google Photos to compress photos and videos on the cloud from their phones — rather than having to log into Google Photos in a web browser. Which could prove useful if you don’t mind losing some quality to save storage space. After all, Google’s 15GB free allowance isn’t a lot. 

Of course if you need to keep all your photos and videos in their original form, then you’ll want to pay up for the right amount of storage. Google offers up to 5TB storage as part of Google One, but you may prefer to use one of the other best cloud storage services instead. 

Or, alternatively, if you’d rather not be locked in with a subscription, or upload to the cloud, the best external hard drives gives you a way to keep everything backed up locally. Just make sure to back everything up regularly, since it can’t be done automatically.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.