How a typo broke Google Photos’ unlimited original quality backup for Google Pixels on custom ROMs

By | 8th July 2018
Google Pixel Snapdragon 710

One of the perks of buying a Google Pixel smartphone is the free, unlimited original quality photo backup in Google Photos. It’s a huge benefit considering the incredible camera quality on the Pixel smartphones thanks in large part to the Google Camera software. If you own a Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel 2, or Google Pixel 2 XL you should fill up your Photos library with a lot of high-quality shots, though you have until January of 2021 to do so. However, if you ran a custom AOSP-based ROM on your first-generation Pixel or Pixel XL in the past, you may have noticed that uploading photos taken by the Google Camera app was still counting against your storage limit in Google Photos. And it’s all because of a typo in AOSP that has just been fixed.

XDA Senior Member razorloves first discovered a fix for this bug back in January of this year. The problem was that photos taken by the Google Camera app were being improperly tagged with “google” instead of “Google,” causing them to count against your storage limit.

Google Photos EXIF data

EXIF data from a photo taken via Google Camera on the Google Pixel 2 XL.

This happened because of a simple typo in the build scripts for the Google Pixel (sailfish) and Google Pixel XL (marlin) where the flag “PRODUCT_MANUFACTURER” was set to the lower-case “google.” To be clear, this bug did not affect the stock ROM of the Pixel smartphones as Google likely has an internal build script they use to ship official software. Furthermore, this bug did not affect AOSP-based ROMs on the Pixel 2 smartphones. Only the AOSP build script was affected and since developers on our forums base their work on AOSP, then all AOSP-based custom ROMs were affected. (We should note that custom ROMs have implemented the fix for many months now after razorloves discovered it, so if you flash a ROM from our forums then you’ll have nothing to worry about.)

Google Pixel

A Googler confirming that the bug only affected the first-generation Pixel smartphones

The fix for this issue was submitted to AOSP on July 3rd and merged on July 6th shortly after LineageOS team members recommended that razorloves upstream the change. razorloves is working on bringing LineageOS 15.1 to the Google Pixel XL now that official support for A/B devices is here.