Google is adding some of its fancy, Pixel-exclusive editing features to Google Photos today for all Android users to enjoy, but there’s a catch — if you don’t have a Pixel, you’ll have to be a paying Google One subscriber to use them.
The paywalled editing features have been rumored for some time, but today marks the official announcement of the new program. Specifically, Google is offering some of its more recent machine-learning powered editing tools, like its enhanced Portrait Blur, Portrait Light, and Color Pop features that it started offering alongside the Pixel 5 last fall to a broader audience.
As Google clarified to The Verge when the paywall was first discovered, the company isn’t taking away existing versions of features like Portrait Blur or Color Pop from free Google Photo users. The current iteration of those features — which work with newer photos that offer depth data, such as a portrait mode shot — will still work for everyone.
But the new Pixel- and subscription-only version promises to take things a step further and allows users to apply those effects (through the power of machine learning) to older photos that don’t have that existing depth data. Pixel users will still get access to the features for free, whether or not they subscribe to Google One.
Along with the new editing features, Google is also offering new AI-powered filters: a new “dynamic” option that automatically enhances brightness and contrast, and “sky suggestions” that can tweak skylines for more dramatic effects.
The new “sky suggestions” filters. Image: Google
Google One subscriptions start at $1.99 per month and primarily focus on expanding storage for Google services (the base plan, for example, offers 100GB of space over the 15GB of included free storage). Google also offers additional perks to subscribers to help sweeten the deal, like Google Store rewards — the new Google Photos editing features are likely part of that plan.
It’s also worth noting that Google is expanding the photo-focused offerings with Google One just months before it ends its free unlimited storage program for Google Photos — meaning that the company will likely be pushing Google One as a solution for users who’ll need more storage space for their pictures, too.
Lastly, Google announced that it’ll be introducing some feature parity between its iOS and Android versions of the app. The Android version is set to get the improved video editor that Google already offers for iOS in the coming weeks, and the iOS version will be updated to receive the new photo editor that Google introduced last fall in the coming months.