Google Photos’ AI editor goes freemium, hopes you’ll join $100/year plan

Google's Magic Editor and Photo Unblur.
Enlarge / Google’s Magic Editor and Photo Unblur.


Google Photos is opening up its premium editing tools to more users. The company says features like Magic Editor, Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, and Portrait Light will be open to everyone, though the editor will have some usage limits for free users. Previously these were exclusive to Pixel devices or users subscribing to Google One.

All of these AI-powered photo manipulators will be hit-or-miss depending on your exact photo, but “Portrait Light” will brighten up people’s faces, and “Photo unblur” claims to be able to remove blur from movement or camera shake from your photos. Magic Eraser is Google’s much-touted photo feature that lets you circle an item and have some AI processing remove it, generating a new background from the existing picture. These features will now all be free to Android and iOS users.

For an even bigger extension of Magic Eraser, there’s “Magic Editor” that lets you remove things and move them around. Magic Editor lets you imprecisely circle objects via your touchscreen, and it’s entirely up to the AI system to both 1) correctly identify and cut out the object you very roughly circled and 2) replace the background where it used to be. It’s a lot to ask of a photo editor. Moving an item won’t correct its perspective, and Google’s examples all do their best to stay away from that with landscape shots and moving an object only a small amount. The nicest part of the editor is that when it has to generate something, you’ll get several different solutions presented in a lineup and can pick the one that looks the best.

Magic Editor happens on the web. You’re required to be online and upload your photo for it to work. After circling an item and moving it, you’ll have to wait several seconds for the generative AI to come up with several solutions you can accept. Google’s photo editor feels very similar to the various Photoshop “content aware” features that have been around for years but with a much lower barrier to entry (in terms of cost and technical skill!).

Magic Editor is taking on a freemium strategy for users on Android and iOS: You’ll get 10 free saves a month, and after that, it’ll cost you. If you don’t have a Pixel device, you’ll need a Google One Plan, but not the basic $20-a-year plan for 100GB of storage; you’ll need the very big 2TB Google One plan. That’s in the third tier of Google’s online storage plans and costs $100 a year.

Google says the previously premium features will roll out starting on May 15, which is in the middle of Google I/O.

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