Google attracted billions of consumers to its digital services by offering abundant free cloud storage. That is starting to change.
The Alphabet Inc. unit has reduced some free storage offers in recent months, while driving more users to a new paid cloud subscription called Google One. That is happening as the amount of data people save online It continues to increase.
When people reach those limits, they realize they have few options other than start paying or risk losing access to emails, photos and personal documents. The cost is not excessive for most consumers, but at the scale that Google operates, this could generate billions of dollars in additional revenue each year for the company. Google did not respond to an email seeking comments.
A big driver of change is Gmail. Google shook the email business when Gmail launched in 2004 with much more free storage than rivals provided at the time. The storage limit increased every two years, but in 2013 it stopped. People’s inboxes filled up. And now that some of Google’s other free storage offerings are shrinking, consumers start getting nasty surprises.
“I was using the account happily and one day I realized that I had not received any email from the previous day,” said Rod Adams, a nuclear power analyst and retired naval officer. After using Gmail since 2006, it finally reached its 15 GB limit and Google interrupted it. Switching from Gmail was not an easy option because many of your social and business contacts contact you that way.
“I just said,” OK, I’ve been free for a long time, now I’m paying, “Adams said.
Other Gmail users are not so happy with the changes. “I am unreasonably sad to use almost all of my free Google storage. I felt infinite. Please don’t make me pay! I need U gmail googledocs! ”, Tweeted a person in September.
Some people have tweeted panic messages to Google in recent months as warnings about their storage limits arrive. A self-described technology enthusiast said he opened several Gmail accounts to avoid increasing Google’s storage limits. Google also finalized or limited other promotions recently that gave people free cloud storage and helped them avoid Gmail crises. New buyers of Chromebook laptops used to get 100 GB free of charge for two years. In May 2019, that was reduced to one year.
The Google Pixel smartphone, originally launched in 2016, comes with free and unlimited photo storage through the company’s Photo service. The last Pixel 4 phone that came out in October still has free photo storage, but the images are now compressed, reducing quality.
More than 11,500 people in a week signed an online petition to recover the full and free Pixel photo agreement. Evgeny Rezunenko, the organizer of the petition, called Google’s change a “hypocritical and cash capture movement.”
“Recall to Google that part of the reason why people choose Pixel phones instead of other manufacturers that look similarly high was in fact this service,” he wrote.
Smartphones dramatically increased the number of photos people take: an estimate estimates that the total for 2017 will be 1.2 billion. Those images quickly fill the storage space on the phones, so technology companies, including Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Google, offered cloud storage as an alternative. Now that those online memories are accumulating, some of these companies are charging users to keep them.
Apple has been doing this for several years, turning its iCloud storage service into a lucrative recurring revenue stream. When iPhone users receive notifications that their devices are full and should delete photos and other files or pay more for cloud storage, people often choose the cloud option.
In May, Google introduced Google One, a replacement for its Drive cloud storage service. There is a free level of 15 GB: enough space for about 5,000 photos, depending on the resolution. Then it costs $ 1.99 per month for 100 GB and more from there. This includes several types of files previously stored in Google Drive, in addition to Gmail emails and photos and videos. The company finalized its two-year free Chromebook storage offer of approximately 100 GB at the same time, while Pixel’s free photo storage agreement ended in October with the launch of Pixel 4.
Gmail, Drive and Google Photos have more than one billion users each. As the company reduces offers of free storage and makes more people pay, that creates a potentially huge new source of revenue for the company. If 10% of Gmail users subscribe to the new Google One subscription of $ 1.99 per month, that would generate almost $ 2.4 billion a year in recurring annual sales for the company.
Adams, the user of Gmail, is one of the people who contribute to this growing Google business. $ 1.99 per month is a relatively small price to pay to avoid losing your main point of digital contact with the world.
“It has worked so long,” Adams said. “I didn’t want to bother changing the address.”