You and your family members probably have separate iTunes accounts for your app and music purchases, but there’s no reason you should be paying for the same apps multiple times.
Apple introduced its Family Sharing feature last year with iOS 8. The key feature allows you to share purchases including apps and songs, access a shared family calendar, share your locations, and more.
You can even approve or deny purchase requests from younger family members on an individual basis. Intrigued? Here’s how to set it up.
What is Family Sharing?
Apple’s Family Sharing feature makes it easy for families of up to six people to share purchased apps, books, and songs. Family Sharing works in the iTunes store, iOS App Store, and the Mac App Store, so you can share content across all of your devices. The only catch is that your iOS devices have to run at least iOS 8 and your Mac laptops and computers should be running OS X Yosemite (or better still, upgrade to El Capitan).
With Family Sharing, you don’t have to share your passwords with each other, but must use one credit card for all devices, with the option of approving purchases on your kids’ devices.
While Family Sharing can technically be extended to anyone with an Apple ID, you’ll want to be selective as to who you add to your plan. Everyone who is added will purchase their apps, songs and everything else using the one credit card used by the person who sets up the Family Sharing plan. Family Sharing also potentially gives other users access to your location and the ability to wipe your devices.
There are also other limitations to keep in mind when setting up Family Sharing. You can only join one family at a time, and can only switch family groups once per year.
How To Set it Up
One person, known as the organizer, must set up Family Sharing, and can then add up to five more Apple IDs to the plan. That person will also be responsible for the payments by all family members, using a single payment card. All other users have to do is accept the invitation from the organizer on their iOS device.
On an iOS Device:
To add users as the organizer, head to Settings > iCloud > Set Up Family Sharing. From there, you can add users by typing their Apple IDs, or create new Apple accounts for your children.
On a Mac:
As the organizer, head to System Preferences > iCloud and click on Set Up Family next to your account information in the box that appears. You can now add members using their Apple IDs, or create new ones for youngsters.
There are four types of accounts in Family Sharing. The organizer sets up Family Sharing, and is the only one who can add new members. New members are either added as adults or children. The organizer can give other adults parent or guardian status, which means they can approve purchases on children’s accounts.
Non-guardian adult accounts can purchase whatever they want (billed to that single card), but can’t approve purchases on children’s accounts. Finally, child accounts can be created from within the Family Sharing setup. With these kinds of accounts, all downloads and purchases have to be approved by the organizer or other parent and guardian accounts.
How to Create Child Accounts
To set up a child account, go to Settings > iCloud > Family > Add Family Member… and Rather than enter an email address, tap Create an Apple ID for a child.
The first thing you will be asked to do is to enter the child’s birthday. This birthday will be used to determine which apps and services they will have access to. Parents have to agree to a parent privacy disclosure, and then enter the security code on the credit card that is linked to the Apple account.
You will then enter the child’s name, and choose an iCloud email address for their account. The email address cannot be changed once the account is created. Enter an Apple ID password, choose three account verification questions and answers. Account verification emails will go to the email address associated with the Organizer. The next step will be determining whether or not you want to approve all purchases on the child account, and if you want to share your child’s location with all people on the Family Sharing plan.
Children under the age of 13 cannot be removed from your Family Sharing list, but you can toggle the ‘Ask to Buy’ feature on and off.
What Can You Share?
While most purchases can be shared with your family members simply by adding them to your plan, there are a few things to remember.
Apps, Books and Songs
Once you’ve set up Family Sharing, apps, books, and songs are are available to other users in the Family Sharing plan. This includes previously purchased items. To find this content go to the Purchased tab of the iOS or Mac app stores.
On your mobile devices, or on your desktop, in iTunes or the Mac App Store, you can filter purchased items by individual members. Not all apps are shareable (as we’ll come to later) so if you don’t see it in the list, you may have to pay for it again.
You can also choose to keep certain purchases private by hiding individual items. Six members of one Family Sharing plan can also share one Apple Music subscription.
Calendars and Reminders
When Family Sharing is set up, it also automatically sets up a family calendar and a Reminders list for all members of the plan. This calendar will show up in the list of iCloud calendars on your iOS devices and the Mac Calendar app. All members can add or edit events in the calendar.
You can choose to share your location (or not) when Family Sharing is set up. The default, when Family Sharing is first set up, is for your location to be shared with family members. If you want to change this setting, go to Settings > iCloud > Share My Location.
From there you can stop stop sharing your location altogether, choose which device you want to use to share your location, and you can also individually choose to stop sharing your location with specific members of the family.
Each person’s devices, offline and online, will be viewable on the list. To view someone’s location you need to launch either the Find My Friends or Find My iPhone apps (both free).
You should be selective as to who you give access to as they gain access to all Find My iPhone features, including the ability to enable Lost Mode and wipe your devices.
Just like the calendars and reminders, when you set up Family Sharing, a shared photo album is automatically created. To access this album, launch your photos app, go to the Shared tab, and you’ll find a new album called ‘Family’ has been created. You can add and view photos added by others here.
What Can’t You Share?
Unfortunately, in-app purchases are included in your Family Sharing shared items. Other items you can’t download or access include songs added from outside the iTunes Store, subscriptions to magazines and newspapers, items no longer available through the App Store, or items that your family members have hidden.
Remember: not all apps are shareable. If you want to find out before purchasing or downloading an app, search for it in the app store, and scroll down to details, where you’ll be able to see whether or not it’s available through family sharing. MakeUseOf’s own iPhone app, for example, is available through Family Sharing.
Sharing is Caring
Apple isn’t the only company that has thought to grant family members access to paid account features.
Amazon allows you to share Prime shipping features with other members of your household. Password management app LastPass lets you share private data with family members in a ‘shared vault,’ as long as one of the users has access to the app’s premium features. Netflix allows two users to stream content at the same time, but if you want to increase that number to four, you have to pay $11.99 a month, as opposed to the standard $7.99 a month.
Do you use family sharing? Would you use it with more than just your immediate family? Let us know in the comments.