Google Implements, Then Suspends, Annual 4 Device Deactivation Limit
May 18, 2012

Google Implements, Then Suspends, Annual 4 Device Deactivation Limit

Enid Burns for

This week Google implemented, then temporarily suspended, an annual four-time deactivation limit on Google Music accounts on Google Play. Users have a maximum 10 device limit on their accounts. The suspension of the new policy is in reaction to the new rule.

A Google Music account is allowed up to 10 devices. Some users of Google Music, including early adopters, may come close to or exceed that allotment. However it's actually somewhat generous compared to competing services. The issue is that a user can only deauthorize four devices per year in the rotation of 10 devices. Apple allows up to five computers to be authorized to sync with the iTunes store. It's unclear whether there is a limit to the number of computers you can deauthorize on Apple iTunes within a given period of time.

For most users that means a smartphone, tablet, computer, laptop, work computer and possibly other devices supporting Google Music can start to approach 10 devices. If a user then upgrades their phone, the old phone is  deactivated. Buy a new computer and that's a second.

The largest group of users complaining are those who flash their phones or other devices either to test new devices or install new capabilities. A statement from the Android Community news site explains the issue. "If a Galaxy Nexus owner connects to the Google Play Store with a stock ROM, then CyanogenMod 9, then AOKP, it might be identified as three devices. Frequent ROM flashers (not to mention phone reviewers!) can see a massive and disjointed list of devices and ROMs."

In the example illustrated by Michael Crider of Android Community above, Google will see that same phone as three devices because of the changes. That user will likely deauthorize each "device" when he performs a flash ROM, but then that's three deactivations.

A day after instituting the policy of a maximum of four deactivations, Google suspended the policy until it comes up with a resolution. A statement was posted on Google Play regarding the device deauthorization limit.


“We recently made a change to our device policy for music on Google Play.  Any user can associate up to 10 devices to his or her account.  Once you have connected 10 devices, you may add a new device only by deauthorizing an existing one from your account, and you may do this up to four times per year.

We limit the number of times you can swap out new devices at the request of some of our music partners in an effort to limit abuse. We understand this has caused some issues for users who often deauthorize and reauthorize the same device, and we are currently re-implementing the solution in a way that works for our users and music partners.

We apologize for any inconvenience and will update this page as new changes are made.”


The reason for the deauthorization policy is a story you've likely heard before. The music industry is worried about licensing agreements. Google has to find a solution that will appease music publishers -who provide artist songs and albums for the Google Music service, and also work with users of Google Music. Both parties are essential to keep this and other music services alive.