Dropbox has quietly removed unlimited device linking for free accounts, meaning that unless you upgrade to one of the paid plans which start at $8.25 per month, you will be restricted to just three devices for a single Dropbox account.
The change, which was first spotted by Liliputing, was rolled out earlier this month, though it’s worth noting here that those who had previously linked more than three devices prior to March, 2019, won’t be affected. However, those who already exceed the limit will still be impacted at some point — for example, they won’t be able to add any more devices to their account in the future. And if they upgrade to a new phone, tablet, or computer, then the three device limit will hit them at that juncture.
Moving forward, if you try to add a new device to your Dropbox account that will take you past the limit, you will see this message. It invites you to “unlink” some of your devices so that you can add a new device, though it’s clear from the layout of the messaging that it wants you to upgrade to a paid plan.
Based on our tests, this doesn’t seem to impact browsers — so you can seemingly sign in to Dropbox on multiple machines through Dropbox.com.
While most companies wouldn’t make a big announcement when diminishing one of its plans, it’s worth pointing out that Dropbox doesn’t mention the new linked-device limit in its plan comparison table. Make of that what you will.
This change is notable as it only really impacts consumer accounts. By way of a quick recap, Dropbox in its original guise was more of a consumer-focused cloud storage product, however as things transpired it’s incredibly hard to get consumers to pay for software-as-a-service (SaaS) products. That is why Dropbox doubled down on the enterprise ahead of its arrival on the public markets last year. The San Francisco-based company continues to target the business fraternity too, with myriad new services and integrations across industries. That Dropbox is now downgrading basic accounts to a three device limit suggests that the company is refocusing its efforts on monetizing individuals too.
By reducing its device limit, Dropbox does risk losing some users to competitors, though a strong counter argument here would be that those users are not paying anyway, so it’s no great loss to the company. And in truth, three devices should be enough for most people — that equates to a mobile phone, tablet, and a desktop computer. By comparison, cloud-based note-taking service Evernote has a two device limit on its free plan, which is just low enough to make people upgrade to a paid plan or, more likely, seek an alternative service with no device limits.
The most obvious reason why someone may wish to sign up for a paid Dropbox plan is more storage — on the free incarnation, you only get 2GB, while paying $8.25 per month gets you 1,000GB. By comparison, Box — which admittedly has always been more of an enterprise product — offers 10GB of storage as standard to individual users on a free plan. Google Drive is free for 15GB, though this storage applies across Google Photos and Gmail. For just $2 a month, though, you can get 100GB of storage with Google. Both Amazon and Microsoft dole out 5GB of free storage for free on their free plans. And to the best of our knowledge, none of these companies have a 3 device restriction in place.
And that is why Dropbox is treading carefully here. Of its 500 million registered users, only around 2.5 percent pay, and if Dropbox wants to increase that number, it doesn’t want to risk losing those free users who may elect to upgrade at a later point, assuming that Dropbox can make a paid plan more alluring. By lowering the device limit to three, Dropbox is clearly targeting power users, those who really rely on Dropbox across four or more devices, and thus may be more inclined to cough up.