A statement that is repeated often by Android loyalists is that one of the best features about Google’s mobile OS is its open-source nature. This allows you to tweak, customize, and, with the right technical know-how, create completely new custom ROMs for your device. Of course, not everyone can do this, but thanks to a few developers, we all have access to some truly amazing customizations such as CyanogenMod and AOKP.

Granted, rooting and flashing a custom ROM has a small amount of risk attached, with the chance that something going wrong will leave you with a very expensive paperweight. Flashing also voids your warranty, which proves that manufacturers aren’t entirely supportive of such activities.

Unfortunately, it seems that Google has also been working quietly behind the scenes to discourage rooting and flashing devices. At least, when it comes to its cloud music storage app, Google Play Music.

First, some background on the issue that became prevalent yesterday:

  • You can register multiple devices to access Google Play Music, i.e., I have an Android phone as well as tablet, and both devices are linked to one Play Music account. Flashing a device means that even though you are using the same phone or tablet, you need to register each ROM as a new device.
  • Since there is a upper limit to how many devices can be registered at the same time, users who flash their devices often are required to de-authorize “old” registrations if they want to add new devices. You can only have a maximum of 10 devices registered at the same time.
  • It seems that over the last 60 days, Google has been making some policy changes that limits the total number of de-authorizations allowed. Some reports suggest that this limit is 4 per year.
  • This limitation is a huge problem for users that keep flashing custom ROMs on their device, because as soon as they hit the limit, they will not be able to de-authorize any past devices. A report over at XDA-developers says that you might be able to de-authorize devices after hitting the limit, by e-mail Google support, but this is unconfirmed as of now.
  • The only confirmed way to work around this issue is either to create a new account and re-upload all your music, or restoring a backup from a previous ROM.

A lot of users, primarily those who are a part of the “flashaholic” community, expressed their anger and disappointment at this issue, eliciting the following response from Google, found on their Google Play support page.

“Yesterday we 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.”

It looks like any de-authorization limit has been removed for now. I would recommend doing so for all your old devices and ROMs soon, before any limits or restrictions are re-applied. I am very impressed with Google’s rapid response to the issue, and they will hopefully be able to come up with an appropriate solution to keep everyone happy.