The original Google Pixel phone in 2016 had a strong selling point: full-quality image backups to Google Photos for free. Future models lacked this bonus, but people still use the first model for saves with wild setups.
The first Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL offer free full-quality photo downloads for the life of the device. Crucially, there’s no checking to see if the photos and videos were captured with the Pixel’s camera — they just need to be present in the camera folder, where the Google Photos app can take them. detect and upload them to the cloud. Images taken on other phones, tablets, and even dedicated DSLR/mirrorless cameras are all compatible, if they’re in a file format that the Google Photos app can recognize.
Google is sticking to its original download promise, at least for now, which has led many people to turn older Pixel phones into media backup solutions for other cameras and devices. The latest example is a setup posted on Reddit’s “DataHoarder” community, which involves a rooted Pixel XL plugged into a USB Type-C hub, which provides power and an Ethernet connection to the local network.
The Reddit poster says they use Syncthing, a popular cross-platform file sync tool, to transfer media from other devices to the Pixel (which then uploads the files to Google Photos). They also use an unspecified app to control the battery charge, alternating it between 20-50%, and using “battery bypass when possible”. The phone is remotely controlled using scrcpy.
While there probably aren’t too many people using the original Pixel phones and their backup features for their intended purpose anymore, Google still delivers on its promise of unlimited, full-quality backups. Google Photos now only offers two backup options, Storage Saver (formerly “High Quality”) and Original Quality, both of which use your Google Account’s shared storage space. Without hacky setups like the example above, storing thousands of photos and videos usually requires a paid Google One storage plan.