March 5, 2024

For Android smartphone owners, it’s about to become a bit of a headache to save backups of your WhatsApp messages. Users have enjoyed free backups of WhatsApp messages on Android for the last five years, but soon those users will need to start paying to preserve their collections of heartfelt messages from family members and weird memes from friends.

This change comes as Google Drive makes some adjustments to its data storage policy in 2024. Google currently offers 15 GB of free storage for all users, and customers who want more room for their data can pay for a Google One subscription. Previously, Meta and Google had a deal where WhatsApp backups on Android did not count toward this 15 GB limit, and now that arrangement is ending.

The unlimited, free backups are already gone for some beta users, and regular users may receive a WhatsApp notification or email from Google a month before their backup situation changes. While a larger rollout is expected to happen early this year, the exact timeline remains unclear, so it’s best to prepare now.

What is Google’s reasoning behind this change? A company spokesperson pointed out WhatsApp’s growing user base and the proliferation of more data-intensive messages, like high-resolution images, as one reason. Over 1.5 billion people used the messaging app monthly in 2018 when Google first stopped counting WhatsApp data as part of a user’s storage limit. Although Meta declined to offer an updated count of monthly active WhatsApp users, it’s possible that the messaging app’s user base has continued to grow steadily in the four years since Meta celebrated WhatsApp’s 2 billion user milestone.

One strategy for lowering the amount of backup data you need for WhatsApp is to experiment with disappearing messages for less important texts that you don’t really care about saving. Also, consider scaling back the storage in your Gmail or Google Photos to free up more space and keep your Google account under the 15 GB limit. Have so many messages to backup that weaning it down feels impossible? You may need to consider upgrading your storage allotment by paying for a Google One plan.

What’s Included With Google One?

The cheapest Google One tier for personal accounts starts at $2 a month or $20 a year for access to 100 GB of storage. That 100 GB of space can be shared by up to five people, or you can keep it all to yourself. Need even more room? A 200 GB plan for Google One costs $30 a year, and a gigantic 2 TB plan costs $100 a year. Keep an eye out for potential deals, as Google might offer trials to new users as the WhatsApp backup change rolls out.

Along with the increased storage space, Google One subscribers get access to additional editing features for Google Photos, like the Magic Eraser tool. Subscribers to the 200 GB plan also receive 3 percent store credit back when shopping the Google Store, and those on the 2 TB plan get 10 percent back. Not to be confused with the Google Play Store for smartphone apps, this store credit applies to the online Google Store where the Pixel 8, Pixel Buds Pro, and other Google hardware is available for purchase. Check out our breakdown of Google One for everything that’s included with the different tiers.

Consider the WhatsApp Chat Transfer

While it’s not the same as having your WhatApp messages backed up for free, the app does now include a feature that makes it easier to transfer your chat history from one Android phone to another, or from one iPhone to another. Visit the FAQ section of WhatApp’s website for a full walkthrough of the process, which can come in handy the next time you upgrade your handset. Switching from Android to iPhone, or vice versa? It’s still possible to transfer chats, although some extra steps are involved. You’ll need to have the same phone number on both devices for chat transfers to work.

Another caveat worth pointing out is that your phones must be connected to the Internet. The WhatsApp guide recommends connecting both phones to a power source as well during the transfer, although no cords were plugged into the Android phones in a video demonstrating the feature posted by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on social media.