With that other major news event out of the way, it's time to move on to more interesting news – Google app updates. Late last night brought us a version bump to Google Photos. While there haven't been any notable changes popping into view yet, a teardown does present some pretty interesting revelations for the future. Fans of the free original storage promotion might soon have some options to enjoy that with other phones. If you've felt like SD card support wasn't up to snuff, there's reason to think that might be getting better soon. And finally, Austin has reappeared with the most curious of features yet.


Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.

Redemption codes for free original storage

If you're keeping your pictures safe with Google Photos, you've probably gone through the consideration of whether or not to store everything at "high quality" for free, or take the hit to your Google Drive storage by keeping everything at its original level of quality. Of course, with the entrance of the Pixel phones and their offer of free lifetime storage for images uploaded from that device (term limits may apply), some of us haven't had to make that decision.

But what about people with other phones, or maybe those that buy a Pixel 2 and plan to keep it as our main shooter beyond 2020? It looks like Google is going to begin handing out some of that free storage to more people. Hey, why not, it's obviously a popular perk that people love.

Google Photos will be adding an option to redeem codes that give free storage at original quality. The rules of this deal appear to match those of the Pixel promotions, even down to the detail that the uploads must come from the same device that redeemed the code. As with the Pixel 2 promotion, there is a cutoff date for uploading photos for free, but anything uploaded from that device before the time limit will get free lifetime storage at original quality.

<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_code_button">Redeem code</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_code_dialog_confirm">Redeem</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_code_dialog_hint">XXXX - XXXX - XXXX - XXXX</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_code_dialog_info">Redeem code to get free storage for original quality content uploaded from this device. %s</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_code_learn_more">Learn more</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_expired_code_dialog_info">This code is no longer active</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_expired_code_dialog_title">Code expired</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_invalid_code_dialog_info">This code is either incorrect or already in use</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_invalid_code_dialog_retry">Retry</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_invalid_code_dialog_title">Invalid code</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_need_sign_in_dialog_info">To redeem code, sign in with your Google account</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_need_sign_in_dialog_title">Sign in to Google Photos</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_network_error_dialog_info">You need an internet connection to redeem code</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_network_error_dialog_title">Unable to connect</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_successful_dialog_info">Photos &amp; videos uploaded from this device before %s will be stored in original quality for free</string>
<string name="photos_devicesetup_redeem_successful_dialog_title">Free storage activated!</string>

The usual bits apply – Codes can only be used once and they won't work for anybody else or on any of your other devices. It sounds like each redemption is only valid between a device and an account, so the benefits don't travel with the phone if you sell it to somebody else. It also seems that there will be expiration dates, so you won't be able to hoard codes to use indefinitely.

There aren't any details or clues about how these codes will make their way into the world. We might see codes sold in the form of gift cards or given away as contest prizes. I would almost bet that Google support staff will be free to hand them out as tokens to disgruntled customers or to solve certain issues. We may even see them appear as payouts for contributions to Google Maps, responses to Opinion Rewards, or perhaps even the Crowdsource app (which now has rewards, btw).

SD Card support

SD card slots in phones are hardly a common feature anymore, but they're certainly not dead and gone, yet. And if you read comments around here or poke around reddit for a little while, you'll certainly notice that a lot of people aren't too happy with the support of SD cards by Google Photos. Things are looking up, though, as some additional support for SD cards appears to be on the way.

<string name="photos_localmedia_ui_sd_card_info">SD Card</string>
<string name="photos_localmedia_ui_sd_card_info_dialog_title">SD Card folder</string>
<string name="photos_localmedia_ui_sd_card_info_dialog_done">Done</string>
<string name="photos_localmedia_ui_sd_folder_desc">SD card folder</string>

I tried a couple of things with the one phone with an SD slot I could get to at the moment, but there was no sign that anything had become functional yet. However, regular users of SD cards should absolutely poke around to see if anything jumps out at them.

Beyond the basic ability to support SD cards and expose folders specific to them, I'm not really sure if this will impart any additional advantages. Obviously it will have some things in common with the current "Device Folders" group for locally stored images, but it's hard to speculate beyond that.

Austin has a new, even my mystery-er feature!!!

Many moons ago – well, more than a handful, but fewer than a dozen – a secretive project was initiated by a ruggedly handsome (I assume) Googler by the name of Austin (may or may not be his real name). It was only known as Austin's Mystery Feature. Unfortunately, even that wasn't secret enough, and the evil lord manager forced our hero Austin to strike his name from the record, or at least remove his name from the strings and hope the Internet forgets it happened. So went our tale, and Austin's name was to be left out of the history books...

But wait!!! On the eve of...umm...today, a new chapter was to be written! Austin's name was not to be forgotten! He has returned, and this time with a new-er, more mysterious-er feature. He also sends an aetherial message from beyond the mountain which we view. It comes to me like the opening crawl of a space opera.......




No, really, he totally snuck in three lines with the name "austins_mysteryer_feature" and the words, "Hello Android Police." Come on, that's pretty cool. Cheers to the awesome dev team, and especially to Austin for waving at us from across the virtual seas!

<string name="photos_photoeditor_adjustments_austins_mysteryer_feature">Hello</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_adjustments_austins_mysteryer_feature_sub1">Android</string>
<string name="photos_photoeditor_adjustments_austins_mysteryer_feature_sub2">Police</string>

So, that might not be all, there might actually be an easter egg attached to this. Unfortunately, I've been up for too many hours and I'm exhausted, plus I've got at least one more teardown to write before I go to sleep. So, I will put this one out there for others to dig into. I've already checked and all three lines have been used in the code, though I haven't traced them back to be sure that they weren't just placed there to fool an optimization process. If anybody feels like wasting 10 minutes (or probably more likely a few hours) looking for an easter egg (or possibly a mysteryer feature), start digging around the source files named pou, pov, and pot.


The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.


Google Photos
Google Photos
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free