Google Will Open Its Magic Editor AI Photo Tools to Everyone for Free, With a Catch

Ahead of its Google I/O developer conference, the internet giant announces a bunch of free AI upgrades to its Google Photos.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

At the Google I/O 2023 developer conference last May, the tech giant demonstrated Magic Editor, showing the feature erasing unwanted people in the background of a photo, as well as moving a person in a shot so that they were standing in a different place.

Screenshot by CNET

Just in time for summer, Google is expanding access to its popular artificial intelligence-powered Magic Editor photo editing tools. The move, which Google said will begin May 15, will give nearly all Google Photos users access to Magic Editor, which includes Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser.

"With the right editing tools, your photos can really shine," Dina Berrada, director of product management for Google Photos, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. She added that any Google Photos user with an iOS or Android device made in the past few years will be able to use advanced editing tools, including Magic Editor, for free. 

Google is placing some limitations on its new features. The company said the free version of Magic Editor can make only 10 saves per month without a paid subscription. People who want to go beyond that will either have to own one of Google's Pixel devices, or pay at least $10 per month for a Google One subscription

Read more: Best Google Pixel Phone for 2024

The moves mark Google's latest effort to draw attention to its AI capabilities. The company had been considered a nexus of AI research for years, along with Facebook. But when startup OpenAI launched its ChatGPT chatbot in 2022, and then Microsoft integrated a version of that technology into its Bing search engine and Office productivity software, Google and Facebook suddenly seemed behind.

Facebook parent company Meta responded by pushing out its own set of AI tools, including image editing tools, chatbot assistants, and "characters" played by celebrities like rapper Snoop Dog, YouTuber MrBeast and retired NFL star Tom Brady.

In the meantime, Google has expanded access to its AI tools throughout its offerings, including its Gemini chatbot competitor to ChatGPT. (For hands-on CNET reviews of generative AI products including Gemini, Claude, ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot, along with AI news, tips and explainers, see our new AI Atlas resource page.)

Google is widely expected to announce even more AI products during its annual Google I/O developer conference, which is set to begin a day before the planned Google Photos upgrades. Last year, the company also announced the Pixel Fold, its first foldable phone, and a revamp of the Pixel Tablet

This year, Google is expected to announce its more-affordable Pixel 8A smartphone, offering a likely upgrade to the Pixel 7A, which CNET reviewers said "raises the bar for lower-priced smartphones" when they gave it an Editors' Choice award last year.

Read more: Google I/O 2024 Set for May 14