Will Android users soon have to pay for WhatsApp backups?

WhatsApp for Android offers a big advantage over the iOS version: Users have unlimited backup storage in the cloud. But now Google plans to put a stop to this practice.

Until now, it has been the case on Android smartphones that WhatsApp automatically saves backups in Google Drive. This option is active by default and makes it possible to restore chats and media even after loss, defect or change of the smartphone. Due to an agreement between WhatsApp and Google, the backups currently do not count against the available cloud storage. This allows users to back up their data even when their Google Drive is already full. That could now change.

Notifications warn of backup limit

It is true that Google has not yet made the backup limit for WhatsApp chats official. However, a look at the code of the current WhatsApp beta shows how the company plans to handle the change. Insider “WABetaInfo” has found notifications in the code that WhatsApp will display to its users in the event of a switch to a backup limit. Here is an excerpt from the planned notifications:

  • “Google Drive Backup Changes”
  • “(…) Limit starts on (…)”
  • “Google Drive limit is in effect”
  • “Backup limit is (…)”
  • “Google Drive limit has been reached”
WhatsApp gets backup limit in Google Drive
An excerpt from the code of the WhatsApp beta Photo: WABetaInfo

The notifications provide information about how Google will handle WhatsApp backups in the future. Instead of counting them directly towards the 15 gigabytes of cloud storage that Google Drive offers for free, there seems to be extra storage just for WhatsApp. However, it is unclear how large this could be.

The fact that Google is cutting free cloud storage is not new

Google already eliminated unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos in the Google Photos app in June 2021. Since then, new shots count against the Google Drive storage volume. Limiting WhatsApp backups would be another move by the company to attract more paying users to its Google One cloud package.

Those who are already maxed out on the 15 gigabytes of free storage due to data in Gmail, Drive and Photos could be squeezed by the backup limit. Depending on how many photos and videos are stored in the WhatsApp backup, it can be several gigabytes in size. So, if the backup exceeds the planned limit, users will either have to delete files or pay for Google One. Google offers 100 gigabytes of Drive storage starting at 99 cents per month.

After all, WhatsApp now has an integrated storage manager that can be used to find and delete large files.

Are iPhone users also affected?

On the iPhone, WhatsApp does not store backups in Google Drive, but Apple’s iCloud. Unlike Android, however, backups here have always counted against the storage volume. However, Apple only gives 5 gigabytes for free – instead of 15. If the backup size exceeds the available cloud storage or if it is already full, WhatsApp cannot back up chats and media. So, again, users either have to remove photos and videos from the backup, or book more iCloud storage.