Google launches free, 'unlimited' photo, video storage service

Google is offering a major bump in photo and video storage with a new service that lets users store an unlimited number of images and clips for free.

The new service, called Google Photos, is supposed to simplify how people manage the massive amount of media they're generating from their smartphones, according to Anil Sabharwal, a Google lead project manager, who announced the service at the company's I/O developer conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Starting Thursday, users can upload images up to 16 megapixels in size, and 1080p high-definition video from Android and iOS devices, and via desktop web browsers.

It works with a new Photos app that organizes users' images by date and lets them pinch to move between viewing their photos by the day, month or year they were shot. They're also organized intelligently based on who's in the photo, or where they were shot.

Google Photos also uses the company's search technology to let people find particular situations, like images taken during a "snowstorm in Toronto."

The app also includes an Assistant feature that uses machine learning to suggest new ways to pull together images from a user's photo library. The feature will pull together video clips and images from events into slideshows and video montages automatically that users can then edit and share.

Google simplified sharing through Photos by creating a new touch gesture for this purpose. Users press and hold on one image, and can then drag their finger across a set of thumbnails in the app to select all of them at once. After that, the app can generate a link that users can share with their friends and family, without requiring a login.

The online storage component is similar to Apple's iCloud Photo Library, which was announced last year and allows users to store their photographs alongside backups of their iOS devices and other files in Apple's cloud. Unlike that service, Google is offering its photo storage for free. Apple offers 5GB of iCloud storage for free, and people can purchase additional capacity.

Blair Hanley Frank

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