Google is trialing a new artificially-intelligent service that sends you ten of your ‘best' photos each month, as physical prints.
At $7.99, it won't be the cheapest way to get photos delivered, but there's a certain novelty on offer here from Google, and there's a long free trial period. Photo selection won't be totally random, and you can choose to edit the images you'll be sent beforehand.
With physical media struggling to compete with digital, could Google's monthly photo subscription change the way we look at our snaps?
What You Get with the Monthly Printing Service
Printing photos is nothing new for Google. It has allowed you to order prints and photo books directly through the Google Photos site for some time. However, now, the company is offering a subscription service that will see ten 6 x 4 prints delivered to your address on a monthly basis.
While the ongoing price is $7.99, Google is offering a rather generous free trial period for users who sign up — six months. That means 60 free prints before any money is taken from your account.
In terms of long term value, it's not so appealing. Google currently offers photo printing at $0.25 per 6 x 4 print, meaning that you could presumably get the same photos for a fraction of the subscription price, if you order them separately.
For a couple of bucks more you could even get a photo book ($9.99). Although having to select the photos yourself, and remember to do it monthly, could be enough to put off procrastinators. The subscription service provides guaranteed scrapbook material, with an ease of use.
At the moment, it is available to selected users in the US. You can check if you are eligible by going to Google Photos and seeing if a banner at the top of the page offers the service.
How are the Photos Selected?
So, how exactly will the precious ten photos be selected? Google doesn't go into too much detail about this on its site, but don't worry, it's not entirely random. When signing up for the service, users are prompted to tell Google the sort of pictures they would most like, from the following options:
- Most people and pets – Relive your best moments of people and pets. Get prints featuring them and other great photos every month
- Mostly landscapes – Revisit your most memorable places. Get prints of your outdoor shots, city scapes, scenery pics, and more sent to you every month
- A little bit of everything – Mix it up! Get a mix of all your best moments! Photos of people, landscapes, and other photos delivered to you each month
While you can give some steer over the selection offered up, we're assuming Google will use an algorithm to pick your best photos of the month. It already does something similar when offering up highlight reels of events or memories.
Google also states that it's possible to view and edit the selection before they are sent out to you, which means you can sneakily remove all those unflattering shots of your bad side before they are committed to paper albums forever.
Physical Media's Attempts to Stay Relevant
Few of us actually print photos anymore. With the average American taking over 20 photographs every day, the time and cost required to find the best ones, print them out and find somewhere to store them, would be a serious undertaking. So, Google might just have hit upon something with its curated service – let an algorithm pluck out the highlights each month and send them directly to you. You can hold on to the ten best memories, and stop worrying about the rest of that digital noise.
The automatic selection tool also provides a similar appeal to the loot crate craze from a couple of years ago (except of course that as you took the photos in the first place, so their contents shouldn't be a total surprise).
There's no doubt that physical media has had to get creative in recent years. While CD sales have plummeted with the advent of iTunes and Spotify, vinyl sales have seen a huge resurgence, finding an audience with a niche of music lovers, albeit a rather large niche. Limited releases also offer some salvation for the medium. Steelbook Blu Ray and DVD cases are highly sought after by rabid collectors, and even video games are seeing numbered physical releases that sell out in minutes.
There's even internet-based memes getting physical. One US company, Infinite Objects, lets you make your own ‘video prints' — essentially a gif — and then ships it to you. The end result is a digital photo frame that can only display the one gif you've selected. Designed as a bespoke item, it ticks the box of personalization that can make physical objects more appealing.
Where Google's monthly printing service will fit into all this remains to be seen. It could be the beginning of an annual 120-photo album trend, or a time to prove printed photos are best kept for holidays and special events. The company has a reputation for trying plenty of new ideas, but not always sticking with them, so it might even ditch the program after six months of trial. But hey, at least you'll get 60 free prints out of it.