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It's 2018 — how does Google Play Music still have a device limit?

There are plenty of ways to stream music these days — I've been an avid Spotify user since the service first rolled out in the U.S., and new services are cropping up all the time, including the new YouTube Music. But Google Play Music has always been different — it isn't just for streaming music from Google's selection, it lets you stream from your own, with the ability to upload your personal catalog to its servers.

That's a great feature for listeners with a wide collection of music that isn't available on streaming services. Maybe you listen to a lot of local bands who haven't distributed their music yet, or maybe your taste in music is just that underground. Whatever the case, it's a great feature that separates Google Play Music from the likes of even the best alternatives.

I have quite a bit of music uploaded to my personal GPM library — mostly demo tracks, local artists, and my own recordings — but while it's nice to have the files stored in the cloud for safety's sake, it doesn't do me much good when it comes to streaming because I'm far beyond my device limit.

In case you didn't know, Google Play Music has long imposed a 10-device limit for playback. Once you try to sign in on an eleventh device, you have to deauthorize one of the others before you're allowed to stream anything. That's fine, just deauthorize an older device and move on, right? Sure, except Google only lets you deauthorize up to four devices a year. There's really no winning here.

There's virtually no alternatives to Google Play Music when it comes to streaming your personal library.

Of course, most people aren't going through ten phones a year (unless you're a tech blogger), but it's easier to reach that 10-device limit than you might think. Every device you connect with, be it your laptop, desktop, a work computer, or a tablet, counts against the limit. Add to that the inevitable phone upgrade and any replacements from incidences like insurance or warranty claims, and that limit can quickly rear its ugly head and leave you without your music.

It's easy to dismiss this problem and say that the newer YouTube Music service (which is more or less replacing Google Play Music) doesn't have such strict device limits, but there are two major problems with that: the free version of YouTube Music is dramatically worse than the free version of GPM (ads between songs, no offline downloads, etc.), and YouTube Music doesn't allow you to upload your own tracks.

So Google, why not just drop this ridiculous device limit already? Google Play Music clearly isn't a priority these days, especially as the company continues to push users toward YouTube Music instead, but that's simply not a viable alternative for the people that have their own libraries to keep track of.

See Google Play Music (opens in new tab)

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

35 Comments
  • It's SUPER annoying. I've had to call them up twice now to have them reset my 10 device limit and they sit there and warn me that next time they might not do it. I mean, I give them money every month so they will.
  • If it's like that do they even deserve your money? There are other options.
  • I think it's easy to hit the limit when you try different phones in a year. It's very easy to forget to remove devices. I have hit it before for my eBook app and I was shocked until I realized that I forgot to remove the old phones.
  • I would suspect that device limits are connected to Google's contracts with record labels. I could be wrong, but when a music locker gets added to YouTube music, similar device limits will probably be added. And for the record I'm not a fan of the limits either.
  • Youtube music does have at least on restriction when you hit the 10 device limit in Google Play Music, It will not let you download any music for offline playback
  • What's worse is that it extends to regular YouTube as well. Since I'm at my limit I can't download any YouTube video through any YT app
  • It is a stupid policy and none of the other music services have it. They find different ways to control the use of the account that allow flexibility for those who often change devices. It is the main issue that keeps me from using Google Music. Google is either extremely stubborn or completely non-responsive to issues like this. Look how long it took them to allow people to turn off conversation view in the mobile Gmail app. People begged for years before Google finally allowed the setting.
  • It is a huge PITA. I have had them reset my device limits 3 times last year and every time my old devices popped up after about 8 hours. They also did not reset as soon as you talked to them so I would have them reset my limit at night. It would reset while I was sleeping and then the old devices would pop up again the next day before I could activate my new phone. Right now I have a device that I haven't used in over a year that I cannot deactivate because I have "deauthorized too many devices" how is that possible if I haven't used it in over a year? They really need to fix it and at least have an authorization prompt and a detailed view of when you will be able to deactivate a device again.
  • I understand why they might want a device limit. The problem is that you can only deauthorize 4 devices a year. Remove that limit and we'd be fine.
  • It's not the device limit that bothers me. It's being unable to deauthorize more than 4 per year. I had long forgotten about this & now have devices that no longer exist in the list. My desktop computer is in there several times itself, from different Windows installs. If there's one thing that will get me to cancel with them, it's this.
  • It's not just Google being annoying about it -- the limit was first imposed because of complaints from the record labels. It's also not that big of a deal to get the device count reset. Takes 5-10min & support has never given me a hassle about it.
  • I agree that removing deauthorisation limits would work for most people. I wasn't aware of these limits and I think the majority of users will not be. The limits are much more generous than for the Sky Go app, which can only be used on 2 devices at once and, from memory, you can only deauthorise one device every six months, or two a year, something like that.
  • Not that I use iTunes, but doesn't iTunes do this too? And they limit you to 4 or 5 (last time I checked, a decade ago 😂). As long as Google is considerably "better" then the competition, what's the incentive to get even better? 😒
  • I have a few phones, and if you are in a beta program or two, that can be a problem as well. I have the same phone on the list multiple times. I've been a subscriber since it was announced and I love GPM, I just wish they would do away with the device limit.
  • Exactly... I went back on / off the 9.0 beta with my pixel 2XL and each time I moved, it counted as a new device... so moving ton the beta and off... then back on... then I had to go off as I had a warranty claim for my charger and they would only process when I went back to 8.1... bang.. 4"devices" in my GPM .... Then, add to the fact I have a tablet on Lineage OS - each time I update that, it counts a s a new device too... PAINFUL
  • I just went through this last weekend and cursed Google loudly! Not only do they limit unmanages to 4 a year(!!!!), I have no idea which of my 8 google devices and 10+ chrome instances I should unmanage. The device descriptions are vague, and the timestamp doesn't necessarily mean I don't want it managed. Total trainwreck of a system.
  • I've had to do this on at least three different occasions. Between my desktop, laptop, phone, TV and other things it is easy to hit the limit. At least allow me to remove as many as I want. Some of them are duplicates after I've done wipes and updates.
  • I need to do this. Is there a chat or phone number to do this? I'd appreciate your help.
  • I can't download videos on YouTube because I hit the device limit smh
  • This happened to me the other day!! I was adding another phone to use with my google play and it stopped, saying I have to many devices, remove one to add the new one. What?!?!?!? I move from phone to phone constantly. You can't limit how many phones use your service under a single account. That's reason to go with another service. Madness. I called them and they said there was nothing they could do. I call BS.
  • Stupidest rule ever! Netflix, Stan, Foxtel ( Australian streaming services ) all have device limits... but you can chop and change as many times as you want and they have no issues ... how can it be so hard for Google??
  • tl/dr: Multiple Android TV boxes all on one IP address should all collectively count as "one device". If you have adopted Android TV as your streaming media player OS of choice (as I have, and you'd think Google would want), and *if* you have purchased a lot of Android TV boxes to hang on several Android TVs (which I have, and you'd think Google would be thrilled about), and if you have an Android phone and tablet (which I do, and you'd think Google would be thrilled about)... Then if you sign in on one personal laptop and one at-work company desktop too, that's 10 perfectly legit legal "authorized devices" and I've hit my limit. Power on an old Android phone or tablet for any reason (to let the kiddos play games, to repurpose as a dedicated Android TV remote control, etc) and I'm over the limit and have to jump through there authorized devices hoops...
  • There are many questions that I have about Google Play Music. Such as: Why is there no volume normalization? Why are playlists capped at 1000 songs? Why is there no dark mode? Why is the desktop interface so buggy? Why can't we arrange songs on a Playlist by artist, title, genre, or album title on the mobile app?
  • I've reached the device limit and I o ly have one device lol. Apparently every time I've done a factory reset on my phone, Google took it as me adding a new device. Eventually I couldn't listen to music at all so I had to call Google and reset my device list
  • YouTube is connected to the device limit, but it limits if you can download or not. I can't download any videos in YouTube music or just regular YouTube. Also, I haven't used a bun h of devices, but when I was messing around with the P betas it counted each time I flashed a new beta AND when I went back to stable Oreo as a separate device, so now I have my one Pixel 2 listed like 6 times -_-
  • It is an annoyance for sure. However, when I've hit that limit (due to the stupid fact that every Android update counts as a "new" device), the customer service representatives have cleared the block quickly and easily.
  • Amazon Music does the same thing. And I eat up most my devices with my Fire TVs, Echos, etc.
  • Guys, don't have time to read all the comments, but the main complaint posted on this blog is the sole reason I dumped G Play Music for Plex. You can now stream all your personal music (even playlists) from Plex to ANY Android/iOS device . For free.. and there's no limit - other than the size of your personal storage. The only obvious caveat to it is you need a pc running as a media server at home. Super simple too.. they have instructions on their page. If you still use iTunes for your music archive, Plex can even auto import. This means no duplicate files!
  • YouTube Music does not have those restrictions because it is still YouTube. It still uses the same AI that YouTube uses to recommend videos. So why would it have those restrictions? Aside from that the only thing mildly interesting about Google Play Music, other than the free music aspect of it, is the music locker. Although I will say that Google Play Music has better artificial intelligence than YouTube Music and the recommendations are way better. YouTube Music is going to win out at the end of the day because it does not have the granular controls that Google Play Music has, as far as quality settings, so it is just an easier app to dive into. It is closer to iHeartMusic in it's simplicity than it is Spotify, another difficult app to master just like Google Play Music. All of these apps are the same anyway. I would like to see Apple bring free music back, like they had with iTunes Radio.
  • Well now we understand why Spotify has that odd 3,333 song limit for libraries. It might have something to do with licensing? In 2018 I'm not even sure we care about device limits. There is nothing to stop anyone from purchasing their own storage and streaming music through Google Drive that way. With no DRM there is no way for Google to keep track. Not like you need that much storage anyway I would rather spend $10 a month on Google Drive and get 2 TB of storage than have to rely on free Music Locker and Google dictates to me how the music should be stored or accessed. What if I want the absolute highest quality uploads my devices can reliably playback possible? Can't do that with Google Play Music. And there are plenty of programs out there that can intelligently handle the audio playback if you don't want to rely on Google's controls. Or you can download the tracks and use an actual MP3 player like WinAmp like we used to do back in the day. It really is not that difficult.
  • iBroadcast is the only other streaming site/app that i have found for uploading your own music. I'm always nervous about these smaller sites closing down suddenly though.
  • Never had an issue with the device limit, but I'm at 49,000 songs. I'd be glad to pay more to increase my space (just like I do with google drive). Are you listening google? I'll pay money!!!!
  • Did they remove device limit? I downloaded google play to my iPhone and im able to play music just fine. My device doesn't show under my devices.
  • Annoying. For some reason It create new machines when I am using the same laptop. If you listen to google play on your laptop on safari and chrome, it will count as two. The 4 deauthorization per year is annoying and the constant pop ups for you to sign in to the service. Worst app for music
  • This is BEYOND stupid Google. I'm here at work and my music stops because my roommate at home tells one of our home speakers to play music (he's an Apple guy and doesn't have a Google Play account so voice recognition doesn't matter). Even beyond that, just because I want to view a YouTube video does not mean my friggin music should stop playing. If I ever sit down in front of Google's engineers, they are going to get an earful.