Well, Google has went and done it again. In the wake of numerous changes to its Google Photos app, the tech giant has made one more teeny-tiny announcement about how it’s going to manage your stored images and files moving forward. And by tiny, we mean the announcement itself was tiny, not the impact it’s going to have on literally billions of users. The impact it’s going to have, to say the least, can have a major effect on how you think about file storage on your phone.
Yep. What kind of changes are we looking at here, exactly? Let’s go ahead and break it down together, shall we? We’ll call it the “good,” the “meh,” and the “well, this stinks.”
Well, for starters, there’s the good. Google has completely overhauled its Photos interface. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you thought the old style was clunky and unwieldy. I mean, I never really had a problem with it, but hey. Google thought it could benefit from a revamping, so I’m not complaining. According to their updates, the Photos tab now boasts larger thumbnails. They’ve also made changes to their “Memories” carousel, making it easier to pursue your awkward selfies and random minutiae of your life. This can be pretty fun, so I’m feeling pretty happy with this new update. Nice. Good job, Google!
What’s next? Okay, so then they did something that was definitely a little bit strange. About four months ago, and with little fanfare, they started offering a new photo printing service. This one is kinda a head scratcher, if I have to be entirely honest. This new feature was offered about four months ago, and it was a neat idea on paper. (No pun intended. Okay, I lied. I totally meant a pun here.) The gist was that select users could pay a fee of $7.99 to get ten random pics from their photos printed out and mailed to them.
This was a disaster from the start, though. For starters, it was ridiculously expensive for what it was (especially considering that most printing services are less than a quarter a pop, and these were almost a dollar each). And then there was the weird issue of them mailing completely irrelevant pics to users, leaving them wondering what exactly they took a picture of and why Google thought to print it out and send it to them. It was kind of like when your cat brings you a half-dead mouse, and you want to praise them and thank them for the sentiment, but you undoubtedly did not want that dead mouse on your duvet cover.
Well, if you’re not a fan of dead mice in your bed or getting random photos mailed to you from Google (which, in retrospect, seems strangely ominous — to me, it conjures up creased manila envelopes without a return address), then your time to rejoice has come. While Google had big plans of making this an ongoing service, they abruptly pulled the plug on it this month, stating that they will no longer be offering this option at the end of June.
And then there’s the bad. What makes this announcement so troublesome isn’t the fact that it could lead to the permanent deletion of sentimental and valuable pics on your phone, but the fact that it was almost like an anti-announcement. In short, Google will no longer be automatically backing up your images from certain apps to their online cloud-based storage service. These apps include messaging apps such as Kik, WhatsApp, and Messages. Failure to manually turn the backup back on could mean that if you lose your phone or accidentally wipe it somehow, then those pictures are lost forever. Gone. Donezo.
Look, I totally understand why Google is doing this. They’ve already made similar announcements to a similar tune, citing an overall goal of reducing bandwidth. This is a fairly smart decision, as bandwidth usage had skyrocketed after the coronavirus pandemic kept people sequestered at home with no other source of entertainment. The issue arises that they really didn’t warn anybody about this new change, which could lead to permanent loss of these pics if your phone hiccups.
Long story short, friends? If you don’t want to lose these pics forever — and they will undoubtedly be done for, no more, bereft of life, ceased to be — then please make sure you double check your backup settings on your phone. Otherwise, you may find yourself unexpectedly disappointed if you go to recall a happy memory from your messenger app, only to find the picture of the said memory deleted forevermore.