IOS Family Sharing Pros and Cons

family sharing

When iOS 8 was announced, I was pleased to see the new Family Sharing features.  Family sharing allows you to share purchases among family members, use a shared photo library and family calendar, and easily share your location so you can find each other on a map.  Family sharing also allows for the creation of Apple ID’s for those under age thirteen.

iOS Family Sharing Pros

Previously, kid’s devices either had to use a parent’s Apple ID, or you had to skirt the issue and fake a birthday when creating an account.  Now, a new Apple ID can be created specifically for those under 13.  These accounts are automatically set up to require the “Ask to Buy” feature (although you can turn this off if you’d like).  So your 8-year old who wants to buy the latest greatest game will have to wait for your OK before he or she can download the app.  They will even need approval for free apps; not just those that cost $$$.

Save Money: Buy an app/song/book once, and let the entire family use it

View family member's purchases in iOS 8

Once Family Sharing is activated, a shared family calendar is automatically created, along with a shared photo library.   Without any extra steps, you have a calendar that can be viewed from all family member’s devices.  This is great for keeping the family schedule in sync! Add Bobby’s dentist appointment and Susie’s soccer practices to the calendar…no more excuses such as “I didn’t know I had practice today!”

Not all functionality is available on devices using iOS 7

From the app store on the iOS 7 device, I could not see or access any apps that had been shared with the Family.  I had downloaded a free game just for this purpose, but it did not show up on Chippy’s iOS7 device.

In iOS7 you can't see shared family purchases

It does work the other way around though; on the iOS7 device I downloaded a free game (and had to ask to buy, so that does still work).  Then from my “parent” device, I was able to see that the app had been downloaded by the child account, and I could download it if I’d like.

  • Share purchases with family from iOS8 device to iOS7 – No.
  • Share purchases with family from an iOS7 device to an iOS8 device – Yes.

Not all that intuitive

Personally I haven’t found the experience all that intuitive.

Parental notification in iOS8 for ask to buy

Even though I clicked to approve the purchase, the song did not immediately download on Chippy’s device.  I had to repeat the purchasing steps to download the song.  After entering the password for Chippy’s Apple ID, the song finally downloaded.  This seems like a lot of steps; it would be a lot easier if the song downloaded automatically upon the parental approval.

Let’s say you as the parent want to download a song with explicit lyrics (hey, we’re adults we can do that if we want…hello Justin Timberlake!) but you don’t want Junior to download the song.  Well, you can hide the purchase but you have to log into iTunes on your computer to do so; you can’t hide a purchase directly from your device.  This is another inconvenience because you might not remember to go back to your computer to hide the purchase.   Those in the family sharing group will have access to download the song until you hide it.  If they have already downloaded it, and then you hide it, they will still have the song/app on their device.

More about Family Sharing

iCloud - Set up family sharing

https://gigaom.com/2014/10/04/thinking-about-switching-to-ios-8s-new-family-sharing-heres-what-you-need-to-know/ – What you need to know before you start

http://internet-safety.yoursphere.com/2014/11/apples-new-family-sharing-plan-and-the-frustration-with-it/ – Read before you set up family sharing; especially for a large family with children of various ages.

http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201081 – Leave Family Sharing – an important consideration to think about beforehand.  There are limits on the number of family groups you can create within a year.

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