Currently, the Google Photos app for iOS allows users to upload photos in Apple’s HEIC format without requiring them to be converted from “Original Quality” to “High Quality JPEG.” This essentially allows them to be stored on Google’s servers without counting toward the user’s storage limit.
Since the HEIC images are already smaller than Google’s compressed JPEG format, the app doesn’t convert them while uploading. The issue was discovered by a Reddit user last week.
“With all modern iPhones shooting photos in HEIC format, which is smaller than even Googles compressed JPG files, iPhones therefore get free unlimited ORIGINAL quality backups simply because it would cost Google both storage space (because if Google tried to compress iPhones HEIC photos they would actually become larger) and computing power (because Google doesn’t need to compress and process all of the billions of photos iPhones backup.)”
Enjoy it while it lasts, as Google has said it will fix the “bug” that allows storing the photos for “free.” Over the weekend, a Google spokesperson told AndroidPolice: “We are aware of this bug and are working to fix it.”
However, it isn’t exactly clear how Google will fix the bug. The Google Photos app could begin converting HEIC photos to the High Quality JPEG format when uploaded, which would result in lowered quality. Or, Google could allow the photos to be uploaded without converting them, but counting them toward the user’s Google Drive usage limit. Time will tell.