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There was apparent good news for iPhone owners last week when it turned out that you could get unlimited free storage of full-res HEIC photo backups in Google Photos. This was causing some consternation because the same wasn’t true of Google’s own Pixel 4 smartphones.
The unexpected bonus for iPhone owners arose because the HEIC format is a lot more efficient than JPEG, so if Google attempted to compress the photos, they would actually end up larger than the originals. However, it now seems the PR hit from iPhone owners getting a freebie while Pixel owners don’t trumps storage space.
Android Police reports that Google has now categorised this behavior as a ‘bug,’ so it’s not likely to last for long.
We reached out to Google for comment and got a confirmation that indeed, pics captured as HEIC/HEIF aren’t compressed and aren’t charged against Photos’ quota. A Google spokesperson told us: “We are aware of this bug and are working to fix it.”
What that means remains unclear. Would Google start charging for HEIC images stored in Photos, even if they’re small and don’t take up much space? Would it forcibly re-convert those pics to compressed JPEG, or compress them further under the HEIC format? And will the fix apply to all HEIC images or just iPhones? (Samsung devices also support saving photos as HEIC, but that doesn’t seem widely adopted by users.) All paths seem riddled with minefields.
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