Dropbox to Limit Free Accounts to Three Devices; Here’s Why This Is a Problem

Dropbox has announced that users of free accounts will no longer be able to link more than three devices to their accounts. Those who had linked more devices prior to March 2019 will be able to continue to use them, but will not be able to link any additional devices.

There are lots of problems with this. Dropbox became quasi-ubiquitous because if its free accounts; anyone can sign up for a 2 GB account and use it to share files. This is especially practical because many people need to work with shared folders created by, say, employers or clients, who need to share files with them. Many Dropbox users don’t use the service very much; those who do, and who need a lot of storage, upgrade to the paid plan, of which there is only one: 1 TB for $10 a month. (There is also a 2 TB plan, and a Business plan, for companies with lots of users.)

The problem here is the old bait and switch; for years, Dropbox has promoted its free service, and now it’s imposing a limit. It’s true that, for many users, this three-device limit will not be a problem, but for others it will. I have five devices linked to my Dropbox account: my iMac (my main computer), my MacBook Pro (my secondary computer), my iPhone, iPad, and a Mac mini server. Actually, there are more; an Android phone I use for testing, and an iPad mini I use for reading occasionally. I don’t need the last two, but in my work I do use the others.

I’d be happy to pay for Dropbox, and have said so for years, but I don’t use it enough for it to be worthwhile. I currently have 25 GB storage on my free account; that’s the 2 GB I got initially, plus lots of bonuses for referrals, for driving customers to Dropbox. I use about half that.

Back around 2014-15, I took out a pro subscription with 1 TB, but there was no way I could make it worthwhile. I don’t need 1 TB, and even if I did, it wouldn’t fit on my Macs; I could put that much data on an external drive connected to my iMac, but now my MacBook Pro. (Yes, I know, selective sync; but I still don’t need that much storage.)

The problem is that Dropbox doesn’t have a low-priced, low-GB plan. I’d happily pay, say, $20 a year for 100 GB, because I am aware that I’ve been getting this service for free for many years. But I’m not spending $100 a year.

There are alternatives: on the Mac and iOS, there’s iCloud Drive, but you can’t share folders. There’s Google Drive, OneDrive, etc., and I have access to both of these through a GSuite (30 GB) and Office365 (1 TB) account. But there are apps that use Dropbox to store settings or data, and may not be able to use iCloud Drive or another service for that.

I know what Dropbox is doing; they’re saying that they don’t care about all these little customers who built the service. They just want to focus on business customers; because, aside from professionals, not many people need 1 TB cloud storage. It’s just a shame that they’re doing it this way.