How Family Sharing Will Ease Your iOS Lifestyle

Everyone in my family owns at least one iOS device (most own two).  In order to keep us from having to buy the same apps and songs multiple times, we all share an Apple ID (the account used to purchase things from the iTunes and App Stores).  This has its benefits.  For example, if someone in my family recommends an app to me, I go and look it up on the app store.  The app shows up as “already purchased” in our account (because it is, just not by me), and this makes it easier to find, since I know someone else has downloaded it.  However, there can also be downsides to sharing an account.  I’m the only one in my family that uses iCloud to sync my calendar and reminders.  This is fortunate, since anyone else who wanted their reminders to sync would have theirs dumped in with mine (a less than ideal situation).  Fortunately, iOS 8 may offer a solution.

iOS 8 will include a new feature called “Family Sharing.”  This isn’t a way to separate one Apple ID into multiple users, rather it’s a way to link multiple Apple IDs into one group.  Basically, the idea is that each person has their own Apple ID.  This is used both for purchasing and for other things such as iCloud.  However, when multiple Apple IDs are in a Family Sharing group, anyone can download anything purchased by any other person in the group, without paying for it again (as long as you’re using the same credit card across accounts).  I’m not sure my family will actually use this feature, since as I’ve said, I’m the only one who uses iCloud, so as it is, we don’t have much of a problem.  However, I know people who do have separate Apple IDs, and they have to pay for apps more than once if more than one person wants to use them.

Unfortunately, Family Sharing does not actually allow you to have multiple users on one iOS device.  As TechHive.com put it (in this article), “Apple still seems content with assuming that ‘multiple users’ means ‘one iOS device per person.’”  Like a lot of much-clamored-for iOS features, I don’t think multiple users makes sense at all on the iPhone.  However, this would be a great feature for iPads.  It’s sort of a shame Apple isn’t adding this.

On the whole, however, I think family sharing is a great idea.  As Apple themselves put it (as the iOS 7.1 tagline), “The most advanced mobile OS keeps advancing.”  I for one am very excited for iOS 8, and I’m happy that Apple continues to understand (most) of the wants and needs of their customers.  ••

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