Bad news for WhatsApp users on Android: chat log and media backups will soon count toward your Google Account storage limit.
This includes the free 15GB of storage given to people whenever they create a new Google Account. That amount is shared across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos with the update further restricting on what can be saved. This move is a complete reversal of a 2018 decision where backups didn’t count toward the limit. It was all on the house.
Google explains on its Android Help website that it’s enacting this change so the “WhatsApp backup experience… will be in line with how it works on other platforms, with the added benefit of” having the free 15GB. The tech giant takes the time to point out this is “three times more than most mobile platforms” which appears to be a random potshot at iCloud’s more confining 5GB of storage.
The new rules
WhatsApp’s own post on its help website describes in detail how the update will roll out. It’ll affect WhatsApp Beta users first starting in December 2023. After that, the changes will periodically expand to all Android users throughout the first half of 2024. The platform states it’ll erect a banner in the Chat Backup section of the app’s Settings menu 30 days before it goes live on your phone.
Once you’ve reached the storage limit, you will need to start deleting files on your account in order to resume backups. You do have the option to purchase more storage via Google One. Prices normally start at $2 for the 100GB plan; however, at the time of this writing, monthly subscriptions have been reduced to $0.50 for the first three months. WhatsApp also recommends using their Chat Transfer tool to move chats between phones.
It’s important to mention this only affects personal Google Accounts. “If you have a Google Workspace subscription through work or school,” nothing changes for you. Restrictions won’t be implemented.
Feeling the squeeze
We should mention the move isn’t totally coming out of nowhere.
Hints of this decision first appeared all the way back in early 2022 when news site WABetaInfo discovered code in a WhatsApp beta revealing the cut off. We theorized the limitations were due to the sheer size of some chats as well as the “quantity of multimedia content people share” on the platform. All that data may have been putting a squeeze on Google servers “costing [the company] a significant sum.”
It appears all the recent WhatsApp updates have exacerbated this issue. We reached out to Google asking if it would like to make a statement. A company representative told us one of the main reasons why the two are making this change is “that over the years, more people have joined WhatsApp, sharing more high-res images and videos than ever before.”
During this past summer, the platform gave people the ability to share high definition photographs and videos. Perhaps the large file sizes proved to be too much for Google to handle, forcing the company to implement some sort of limitation on the platform.
Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best photo storage and sharing sites in 2023 if you’re looking for other options.