Tech

Google Photos adds new editing features but they're for paying users only

Subscribers to Google One get access to several machine learning-based editing tools that were previously exclusive to Pixel phones.

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Google Photos is getting some new machine learning-based editing tools that up until now have been exclusive to Pixel phones — but to get them you'll need to pay for Google One, the company's subscription product that offers upgraded storage space across its services.

Intelligent editing — The tools include Portrait Light, Portrait Blur, and Color Pop. These were technically already available to all Google Photos users, even free ones, but the difference is that Pixel owners were able to apply the filters to pictures that don't offer depth data — so you could, for instance, add a bokeh blur to the background of a photo taken even from an older camera without native support for it. Now all paying Google One subscribers can access this functionality, too.

Google Photos is considered one of the all-in-one best photo storage and editing apps available. The company has worked hard over the years developing its machine learning capabilities to get the best shots out of smartphone cameras that may not be using the latest and greatest sensors. It's also won over plenty of consumers because for years it offered unlimited storage of slightly-compressed images for free... though that's going away later this year.

Google Photos "sky suggestion" filter.Google

Google is also introducing new filters today, including a sky suggestions" option that can tweak skylines and create more dramatic effects. It creates a kind of unnatural look, but maybe you're into that.

Free no more — The announcements come as Google plans to phase out free unlimited storage in Google Photos as of June 1. Right now, storage of "original quality" photos is capped but users can store unlimited higher resolution pictures. Soon that will change to a hard 15GB limit for all photos regardless of quality.

The most affordable Google One plan starts at $1.99 per month and offers 100GB of space across the company's myriad of services, from Photos to Drive and Gmail. Higher priced versions include more storage, like 200GB for $2.99 per month, and goodies like access to Google's VPN in the $9.99 per month plan.

It's not surprising that Google would eventually reign in free storage, though some have decried the move as a bait-and-switch to get people backing up their photo libraries before being forced to pay up. At least the company is trying to sweeten the deal somewhat with new premium features.