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By Usama Jawad96
Free, unlimited high-quality Google Photos backups end today, here's what you need to know
by Usama Jawad
Back in November 2020, Google announced that starting from June 1, 2021, it is changing its storage policies. A significant modification included the term that the company is ending free, unlimited high-quality backups for new photos on non-Pixel phones. Today, this change kicks into effect.
The 15GB of free storage capacity that you get when you sign up for a Google account includes data from Drive, Gmail, and Photos. It is important to note that your existing high-quality Photos backups do not count towards this limit, and that the change applies to new uploads of this configuration only. The change in policy aligns with a similar modification that was made to users that backed up ‘Original quality’ images.
While the announcement covers only non-Pixel devices for now, there are rumors that the limit will eventually apply to Pixel phones too. Google had previously claimed that the 15GB limit is sufficient for “80 percent” of users to store "three more years worth of memories". It is likely that the Mountain View firm is pushing customers towards its Google One plans which start at $1.99/month for 100GB of storage, and even offer a VPN on higher tiers.
Moving forward, unless users purchase more storage, they will eventually be affected by the combined storage policies and backup limitations. Google plans to begin notifying customers who are approaching the 15GB limit and will also release a new tool that will help users manage photos and delete unwanted, blurred, or dark images by automatically categorizing them.
In the meantime, our readers can view our handy guide about how to free up storage space on your Google account, which also includes a nifty utility that estimates how long your free storage may last based on your current usage.
Apple's new tool will allow users to move iCloud Photos to Google Photos with ease
by Anmol Mehrotra
Apple has introduced a new tool that will allow iCloud users to migrate their data to Google Photos with ease. The tool will transfer all your photos and videos to Google Photos making it easier for users to migrate to Google's ecosystem.
Apple notes that the transfer will take up to seven days during which the company will verify that the request was made by you and will transfer the data. The company also notes that the data will be copied to Google Photos so your backups on iCloud will not be altered. Furthermore, users will need to enable two-factor authentication on their Apple ID and make sure their Google account has enough storage available to complete the transfer.
Once you have enabled two-factor authentication and cleared space on Google, you can send Apple a transfer request. To do that, head to privacy.apple.com and sign in with your Apple ID. Once logged in, select Transfer a copy of your data and follow the steps to transfer the data. Once requested, Apple may take up to seven days to complete the transfer. You can, however, check the status of the transfer at privacy.apple.com/account.
Apple is doing a phased rollout of the service and it is currently available for users in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Currently, the transfer tool supports jpg, .png, .webp, .gif, some RAW files, .mpg, .mod, .mmv, .tod, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .divx, .mov, .m4v, .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .m2t, .m2ts, .mts, and .mkv formats. The company further says that the filenames of albums and videos on Google Photos will start with "Copy of". Since Google supports 20,000 files per album, extra files will be transferred to Photos but will not be added to any album. Lastly, Apple warns that some files like shared albums, Smart Albums, live photos, some RAW files and metadata may not be transferred at all.
By Rich Woods
Google is introducing a new video editor in Photos
by Rich Woods
Back in September, Google announced an all-new photo editor for its Google Photos service. Now, the firm is announcing a new video editor. Google says that the feature is designed to make it nice and easy to use, so you don't have to be a video editing expert.
Obviously, you can use it to trim, stabilize, and rotate your videos, but now you can also crop, change perspective, add filters, and make granular edits. Those granular edits include controls for brightness, contrast, saturation, and warmth, so there's quite a bit there. In fact, the Mountain View firm says that there are over 30 different controls.
The new video editing features are out now on iOS, and they'll be arriving for most Android devices in the coming weeks. The redesigned editor is arriving on iOS in the coming months.
Next up are some new editing features that are exclusive to Google One subscribers. If you're unfamiliar with Google One, it's Google's subscription bundle that includes things like storage and extra features. As we've seen before, subscribers are getting some features that were previously exclusive to Pixel devices.
Two new features are Portrait Blur and Portrait Light, both of which use machine learning to let you adjust your portrait photos. It's pretty self-explanatory in the name, but Portrait Blur lets you adjust the background blur on the image, and Portrait Light lets you adjust lighting on the face in portraits. Moreover, since these features use machine learning instead of depth information, you can use them with images that weren't actually taken in portrait mode.
Blur and Color Pop are getting the same treatment, meaning that Google One subscribers can use them on pictures without any depth information. If you're not a Google One subscriber, you can still use the features in Google Photos, but the images will need to have been taken in portrait mode.
This is all rolling out over the coming days, and Google says that it's really focusing on the machine learning features for Google One subscribers. Paid plans start at $1.99 for 100GB of storage, and they go up to $9.99 a month for 2TB of storage.
By Usama Jawad96
Here are the five biggest tech surprises of 2020
by Usama Jawad
2020 is almost done and dusted which means that now's a good time to take a look back at some of this year's highlights. In this week, we have already looked at some of the coolest tech innovations and disappointments of 2020. Today, we are going to revisit some of the biggest surprises that were delivered to us in the tech landscape this year.
These surprises refer to products, services, or events that landed upon us without any prior warning and caught us off-guard, fortunately or unfortunately. Needless to say, this is a list based on personal preferences, so maybe some of the items mentioned here won't be as surprising or momentous for you as they were for us. With that out of the way, let's begin!
1 - Microsoft buys ZeniMax Media
Without a doubt, one of the biggest gaming-related news that graced us this year, and it's equally surprising that Microsoft managed to keep it a secret until it was made official. The company, which has faced a lot of criticism in the past few years for its lackluster Xbox exclusives, finally decided to remedy the situation starting this year. The secret ingredient? Buying ZeniMax Media for a whopping $7.5 billion on September 21.
If you're unfamiliar with the name, it's the firm that owns high profile game development studios such as Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. This essentially brings numerous popular franchises under Microsoft's first-party umbrella, including Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, and Starfield. It also means that the Xbox Game Studios family has now grown from 15 to 23.
This was a major power move from Microsoft which had been struggling against high-quality PlayStation exclusives as well as the exclusivity deals that Sony has been striking with third-party developers.
While Microsoft stated that it would honor existing agreements of bringing games from these studios like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo to the PlayStation 5, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that the company does not need to put games on PlayStation to recoup its $7.5 billion purchase. He had previously also confirmed that the release of titles from these studios on other platforms would be decided on a case by case basis.
While this has caused some worry in the PlayStation camp, this is good news for Xbox players, as this acquisition means that they will be able to enjoy upcoming games from ZeniMax Media like the highly anticipated The Elder Scrolls VI on Game Pass on day one without paying an additional cent.
2 - Carl Pei leaves OnePlus
From left to right: Akis Evangelidis, Pete Lau, Carl Pei This is yet another piece of news that caught everyone by surprise back in October when the public face and co-founder of OnePlus Carl Pei suddenly left the company after seven years at the helm. In fact, it is still very much unclear why Pei made this decision, but some reports have indicated that it was likely due to an internal power struggle with the other co-founder Pete Lau.
Carl Pei is best known for being the co-founder of OnePlus alongside Pete Lau back in 2013. The company's first product, the OnePlus One, was highly anticipated for its flagship specifications at a price point that was roughly half that of the competition. The device went on sale at online storefronts in April 2014 and managed to sell over one million units before the end of the year, surpassing its 50,000 units sold target with aplomb.
A recent report has indicated that the executive has now raised $7 million in a seed funding round in his latest hardware-related venture. Not much about this endeavor is known yet, but rumors hint that it is an audio-related endeavor that will see Pei set up an office in London. We'll likely learn more on this front in 2021.
3 - Google getting rid of free unlimited Photos backup
File this under disappointing, but Google announced in November that it is making major changes to storage policies tied to Photos. Primarily, it is doing away with the free unlimited high-quality backups for Photos users, which means that once users hit the 15GB Drive cap, they will need to purchase a storage plan to backup more photos.
While the change in policy will be in effect from June 1, 2021, its sudden announcement last month earns it a spot on this list. After June of next year, users will have a total of 15GB of free storage for data from Drive, Gmail, and Photos.
The change has likely been introduced to encourage more users to upgrade to Google One plans and monetize the Photos backup feature. The entry-level tier starts at $1.99 per month for 100GB of storage. Users that rely heavily on free Photos backups have little more than six months before the policies change, so make sure to check out our handy guide here about how to optimize your storage strategy.
4 - Microsoft quietly cancels its 95% revenue sharing program
Amidst much fanfare and appreciation, Microsoft announced at Build 2018 that it is introducing a new revenue split program under which developers can earn as much as 95% of the revenue from sales from the Store, as long as customers discovered the app through the developer's own promotion. At that time, both Google and Apple provided 60% of revenues to developers, which made Microsoft's offer all the more enticing.
However, it wasn't until March 2019 that Microsoft finally added this change to its developer agreement. This proved to be a very short-lived modification as numerous developers discovered in January 2020 that the company had quietly updated the document again to revoke this offer, and was now offering the standard 85%, also announced at Build 2018 for apps which are discovered using promotion offered by the Redmond tech giant.
To Microsoft's credit, it only canceled the offer due to lack of participation from developers. In a statement to Neowin, the company told us that "due to the small number of developers that took advantage of the 95% revenue share, we’ve made changes to streamline the experience for developers and offer a consistent 85% model". The attractive but apparently not-enough-used program died a quiet death nine months after formal initiation.
5 - Google's massive global outage
Most of you - especially those who rely heavily on Google services - will be able to vividly recall the day when Google faced a global outage earlier in December. The issue affected numerous services including Gmail, YouTube, Drive, News, Translate, Ads, Domain, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) among others.
Millions of people around the globe were unable to access the aforementioned services properly, with no indication from the company as to what was causing the problem, other than Google saying that it was looking into it.
After roughly one hour of the outage - in which people vented about centralized services in meltdown on social media platforms or asking if Google has been hacked - the firm finally managed to fix the issue, and services were slowly restored for users. Google later issued an apology stating that the mishap was due to an "internal storage quota issue" and that it will ensure that it doesn't occur again in the future.
The specific incident is significant because it showed how heavily people are invested in Google services, where a one-hour downtime halted their daily routines and usual activities. This was also the first outage of this extent for Google services, and here's to hoping it doesn't happen again in 2021.
Those were our top picks for tech incidents that caught us off-guard. Are there any others that you think deserve to be on this list and we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
By Abhay V
Google Photos adds new 'Cinematic' 3D effects, new collage designs, and more
by Abhay Venkatesh
Google today announced a few new features coming to Photos, including improvements to the 'Memories' feature that surfaces images from the past depending on the location and date of the images. There are also new styles for creating collages.
The most significant addition to Memories is a new Cinematic photos feature that creates a kind of a 3D image of images and adds a slight motion that the company says makes the images “more vivid and realistic”. The parallax-like effect is made possible by machine learning algorithms that predict depth in the image, even if the image does not contain depth information, the firm adds. These images are automatically created by the app and show up in the ‘Recent highlights’ section.
Additionally, the search giant is also adding new themes for Memories in Photos, bringing together images of users’ close relatives and “important people”. The company adds that it will soon add Memories of users’ favorite things such as sunsets or events such as hiking and other activities to the app, making it more personalized. Users will have the flexibility to exclude time periods or certain people from Memories.
Lastly, the Photos app is adding new collage styles, including styles suggested based on prominent colors in an image to enhance the overall look and adapt the background of the collage. The company says that the styles are “populated and stylized using AI”. These styles are already rolling out to users.
Cinematic photos and the new Memories themes should start making it to devices over the next month. Since the rollout seems to be staggered, the features will make it to users gradually.