The Pixel 4 Kills the Best Google Perk

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Past Pixel phones have had a not-so-secret selling point. Buy one of Google's flagship phones, and the company would let you store an unlimited amount of your photos at the original quality. It was a nice perk for buying a Pixel that leveraged Google Photos.

With the newly introduced Pixel 4, though, we've found out there are limits to Google's storage generosity. Google's dropped all mention of being able to store all of your photos at their original quality, and The Verge has confirmed with Google that the offer available with past Pixel phones is no longer an option.

To be clear, you still get to store your Pixel 4 photos. But dig around the fine print on Google's Pixel 4 page, and you'll see that Google is only promising "free unlimited online storage for all photos and videos uploaded in high quality" (emphasis added). That caveat at the end means that your photos and videos stored with Google could be compressed or resized. In contrast, people who bought a Pixel 3 last year were promised unlimited storage of photos at their original quality through January 2022.

This time around, Google is offering Google One access to Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL owners. You get 100GB of cloud storage with Google One, plus online pro sessions to help you get comfortable with your new phone. But the Google One perk lasts for only three months; after that, you'd have to pay $1.99 a month (or $20 annually) to get 100GB of storage through Google One.

The switch in photo quality for photos stored with Google isn't likely to be a deal-breaker for anyone considering a Pixel 4. But it's still disappointing, considering how prominent photo features are in the case for getting a Pixel over other leading smartphones. Previous Pixel models have been among the top-ranked camera phones, so it's safe to assume that anyone getting a Pixel places a premium on taking a lot of photos.

Storage is also a consideration considering the skimpy capacity that comes with the Pixel 4. Google's new phone starts with 64GB of storage in the $799 model, though for an extra $100 you can double that capacity to 128GB. Samsung's Galaxy S10 lineup, in contrast, starts with 128GB of storage in its base models.

The new Pixel 4 lineup has a lot to recommend it, from a display with a 90-Hz refresh rate to Motion Sense controls that let you handle some phone functions like music playback with just a gesture. But the phone's photo storage perks aren't as promising as they used to be.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.