How Many iPads Can I Sync With A Single iTunes Account?

iPadsEDIT: Be sure to see my updated post on this subject:

Updated: How Many iPads Can I Sync With A Single iTunes User Account?

Great Question!  (Thanks)  Let’s imagine a scenario:

I’ve purchased 40 iPads for my classroom, and as I prepare to introduce them to my students and begin using them in regular instruction, I need to choose apps that will support my instruction and get copies on each of the 40 iPads.  For the sake of argument, let’s use the apps I mentioned in my last post:

Pianist Pro $9.99

Mozart HD $9.99

Nota HD $7.99

Pitch Primer $9.99

Pages $9.99

TOTAL $47.95

If I want to create an iTunes account on each iPad and download each app separately, this will cost me a total of $1,918.   Not to mention, creating an account on each iPad will take a great amount of time, and I’ll have to sync each iPad to a computer separately to back up my data and ensure the safety of my purchased apps in case of any problems which erase my iPad’s memory.

This brings me to the question raised in the title of this article: How many iPads can I sync with a single iTunes account?

Simply, If I can sync all 40 with a single iTunes account, I can download each app once, on my computer, and then sync each of the 40 iPads with my computer.  A slow process, to be sure, assuming I can only do one (or maybe two) at a time, but certainly a money saver.  You see, in the research I’ve done so far, there are conflicting reports of  how many iPods (and thus iPads) one can sync with a single iTunes account.

According to this Apple Support Article regarding downloaded iTunes videos:

“You can authorize up to five computers to play purchased videos, and you can sync the video to as many iPods as you like”

This might be the case for apps as well, as seen in this iPad syncing Apple discussion, and in the iLounge forums.

The definitive answer may be found in the iTunes App Store Terms and Conditions:

“9. (iii) You shall be able to store Products on five iTunes-authorized devices at any time.”

So, with this information, it seems to maintain a lab of 40 iPads, I will need to establish 8 separate iTunes accounts, and purchase each app 8 times, one for each account.  This means to load the above apps on 40 iPads will cost a total of $383.60.   Lets see those numbers again: $1918 vs $383.60.  That’s a huge pile of money my school is saving and developers (and Apple) aren’t getting.  And it’s possible that the license agreement isn’t enforced by iTunes, but is simply a legal limit, making syncing more than 5 iPads possible.

Let’s make this clear: I’m not complaining!  However, I can’t imagine Apple letting all that money slip through their fingers.  Maybe the iPhone OS 4.0 announcement scheduled for April 8th will address lab-pack purchases, but in the mean time, this really is a great discount for schools.

One more thing: When evaluating app purchases and their per-iPad cost, the rule seems to be “Divide by 5.”  Until the user agreement changes, that is.


10 Responses to How Many iPads Can I Sync With A Single iTunes Account?

  1. Anonymous Teacher says:

    I’d like to see follow up posts on this, especially about how many hours it takes you to get software on your iPads. We have a similar project in mind with 100 iPads. Many of the apps, may be free, but how long will it take us to get the software onto the iPads? That’s the question.

    • Dave Martin says:

      Thanks for the post! I think you’re raising a good point – without any kind of lab management software from Apple, it will take a good long while to get every iPad loaded with the software your curriculum requires. Updates could be made easier – by changing the password to something simple temporarily, and having a class of kids run the update simultaneously, perhaps. The password could be changed back after the upgrades are done. I’m hoping Apple will see the value of the education market and “Think Different(ly)” on this issue.

  2. Samuel says:

    Thanks for the Blog on iPads in the Music Classroom!
    I followed you from the post you made at Thank you.

    I would love to know when and if you get this running in your department. Here in Australia we will have to wait a while and it looks like there are only a handful of teachers that are excited about it for education purposes. Time will tell. I would really love Apple to fix the dock to VGA converter to show all apps on a big screen or interactive whiteboard.

    As for the price, what school wouldn’t love to see that on a proposed budget. I am hoping that all these music apps and more have integrated into them an ‘educational focus’ to help sell the idea to my school.

    Thanks again for the post.

    • Dave Martin says:

      Thanks for posting. I too wish apple would fix the VGA out to work all the time to patch the iPad into a presentation for instruction on using apps! Look for my upcoming post on my experiences with my new iPad!

  3. Scott Meech says:

    I education apps review’s community of educators has a lot of educators talking about these devices. Your contributions would be appreciated.

    The community has discussed this issue at length and the licensing agreement has been understood to be as many devices with one iTunes account as you would like and that single iTunes account can be on 5 computers. Since it gets really messy with multiple computers and more than one iTunes account, the reality is that you will really only want to use one computer anyway.

    I hope to see you more involved with and the community at

    • Dave Martin says:

      I see… So you’re saying an entire class could sync all 40 iPads to one computer, with one purchase per piece of software? I wonder what the capacity for syncing multiple devices at one time is? For example, could I hook up a 5-port USB hub and sync 5 at a time? That might make the process a little less painless and time consuming. I’ll check out your links. Thanks for posting!

  4. Cindy Buchanan says:

    I worked for Apple for 3 1/2 years and left to come back to teaching last August. This was a very common question asked both by consumers and educators. You can sync your ipod content to as many devices as you would like – all from one library. You may authorize that content in the library on up to 5 authorized computers – meaning you may copy a library’s content and have it on up to 5 computers. OPTION 1) I can have one library – sync to 40 ipods or ipads (or more). OPTION 2) I can purchase songs, apps, video, whatever – and legally authorize that content to be on 5 computers (5 libraries). I would do the second option if perhaps I want content on my imac and also my macbook. Generally to make things easy, people keep one library – sync all ipods in the house or classroom to that one central library. Also to address another common question – you can sync multiple devices at once on a mac. Windows users – one at a time, as windows does not support multi-device syncing. Same rules as far as syncing multiple ipods of course – just not all at the same time on PC’s.
    Hope this helps clarify – and even better news to save money in a school. Apple’s still making their money on the devices – no worries! Definitely back up your school’s library on an external drive – having all the content on one computer is a risk. If the computer that has the library gets upgraded or replaced – be sure to DE-AUTHORIZE after transferring the library to the new computer in order to preserve one of the “5 lives of authorization. Further explanation can be found in itunes.

    • Dave Martin says:

      Wow! That’s the definitive answer, and it’s amazing news. I can’t believe a single app purchase can fill a lab of computers. Suddenly, a super-premium $40 app is only $1 per iPad. I just wonder if this will discourage app developers from making the kind of software I’d like to use in my classroom.

      Thanks so much for your help!

  5. Amy says:

    Hi Dave,
    I’m planning to purchase my first iPad in a week or so, when I receive the stipend for a workshop I’m participating in. I already have 28 iPod touches (another teacher and I share 55 between us) and have a charging cart we use. Apparently the limit to sync at once is 20, and the cart has 2 drawers that will each hold 20 and two USB cables in the back that connect to my MacBook Pro (love grants). I use these in two different AP Physics courses, so I use one drawer per class and each drawer is synced with slightly different material. So far my county hasn’t figured out how to give me funds (out of the grant-not their money!!) for apps so I’ve bought iTunes cards and the apps myself, so it’s a good thing that apps are relatively cheap and one purchase covers the whole set. I’ll be watching your blog with interest as you begin to use your iPad. Physics is a bit different, but I bet we end up doing some of the same types of things. Also, my children,16 and 13) are musicians (both All-State trombonists) and some of your apps would be great for them.

    Nice blog-I appreciate the time and effort you take sharing your experiences.


    • Dave Martin says:

      Amy: Thanks for sharing your experience using iPod Touches. I anticipate I’ll need to use iTunes cards as well to purchase apps. I’m curious, do you have any funding organizations you recommend for grants of this type? Thanks for posting.

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