iOS 8 Family Sharing: Explained

Family Sharing on iOS 8: Explained

You can already share media with your family, but iOS 8 will make it easier to share even more — and keep track of who has what

iPhones, iPod touches, iPads everywhere — everyone in the family has devices and uses them for everything. One of iOS 8's key improvements is more convenient family sharing. This is what it is and how it works.

Easier media sharing and better parental control

You've been able to share media content with other members of your family for quite some time thanks to Apple's Home Sharing: Up to five computers and an unlimited number of iOS devices are all linked to a central Apple ID used to buy media and apps.

That's how it's set up in my family: Me, my wife, my three kids — all of us able to buy and share apps, movies, music, TV shows, iBooks. All the content that's available from the iTunes and App Stores. Works great, though it's all dependent on my Apple ID, which means giving out my password when someone wants to make a purchase.

Inconvenient and frankly not safe — my Apple ID is my key to the Apple realm. I use it for iCloud e-mail. I sync documents in the cloud. I trust every member of my family, but it's still uncomfortable risk.

Family Sharing permission

With iOS 8 Family Sharing, we'll have that same ease of sharing but without the dependence on sharing a single Apple ID. With Family Sharing, up to six people, each with their own Apple ID, can download apps and iTunes media. Parents can control kids' spending, too.

Better family surveillance (optional)

Find My iPhone

Family Sharing isn't just about iTunes and App Store transactions, though. Managed through the iCloud settings in iOS 8, Family Sharing pulls together shared access to other content that can benefit family members.

Need to figure out where your 14 year old is? Use Find My Friends. You can also find your (or your kids') lost devices using Find my iPhone.

Of course, no one likes to be spied on, and Apple's taken that into consideration. You have control over whether your device can be located. Assuming your parents haven't restricted that functionality to begin with.

Easier calendar and photo sharing

Family Sharing shared calendar

There's also an easily shared family calendar that anyone can mark up, to help keep everyone up to date, along with shared family reminders. A shared family photo album makes it easier to remember special occasions and events.

Family Sharing photo album

Family Sharing ultimately comes down to one person who's the common point of contact — in this context, that's the Family Organizer. The Family Organizer is the person who sends out the invitations in the first place.

Reducing user pain

Our family has long made do with the patchwork of content sharing technology that Apple makes available to iOS and Mac users. But it's been unwieldy and difficult to manage. Apple's moving in the right direction by making all that easier in iOS 8 with Family Sharing.

If you're already managing much of this stuff separately, as my family is, I'm sure you can see the benefit. By bringing it under one roof through iCloud, Apple's streamlined family sharing and made it much easier to manage and more secure.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 18 comments. Add yours.

Shamrock says:

I loved when they talked about this at WWDC. This is exciting. It might even make my wife come back to an iPhone.

Velvet_Pelvis says:

I hope Apple will let me transfer all the Toca Boca games from my Apple ID to my daughters Apple ID (which I will create once iOS 8 is released).

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arbourable says:

I doubt that very much, that would open up a whole "resale of apps" scenario.

Ron Miller 85763 says:

In my family, I have one Apple ID that is only used for store purchases and is shared by all family members, and each member of our family has a different and separate Apple ID for iCloud. My wife and I know the store password, but my daughters need to go through me to buy apps. For me, this actually works perfectly, and I don't think that family sharing is going to change anything for my setup.

arbourable says:

Your solution requires iTunes home sharing? The new family sharing won't require you to run iTunes on yourMac or PC. Apple are now covering all the use cases with iCloud if you stream your Movies/TV shows/Music. How long before we see separate music and video apps for the mac that allow you to stream content from iCloud?

Ron Miller 85763 says:

My solution doesn't require home sharing. I just use my "store" ID for everywhere I manage purchases (iTunes on my Macs and in the iTunes / App Store settings on my iOS devices). For both my Macs and iOS devices, I have different IDs that I enter for the "iCloud" account settings. This has worked perfectly for me when sharing apps and music / iTunes Match amongst all family members. It also works for downloading purchased books from the cloud, and for downloading purchased movies from the cloud on all of our devices. I believe that there is a 10-device limit for iCloud sharing which my family of four is close to hitting (3 macs, 4 iPads, and 2 iPhones). If my daughters get iPhones, then I will be over the limit.

However, even if you reach that limit, I believe that you can have unlimited devices that sync via a computer rather than iCloud. If I was to stop using my iPad as one of my 10 devices, that iPad would no longer be able to download iTunes Match songs and I think it would no longer be able to download previously purchased apps directly from the device. However, I would still be able to go to iTunes on my Mac and manage the music and apps that are synched to it.

I'm not 100% positive about the second paragraph above, but I am 100% positive that my current setup allows me to purchase music / apps / movies / books once and then to enjoy them on all of the devices in my family.

arbourable says:

Thanks for clarifying, that's pretty much how I do things at the moment. There are a few advantages to the new way. First would be an unlimited number of iOS devices (the limitation would be the number of Apple ID's allowed to join the family group). Second, your kids future purchases of media/games would be separate from yours, so your library won't be cluttered with their stuff. Third would be when your kids grow up and get their own credit cards, I assume they'd still have access to the media/apps/books purchased via their Apple ID's [edit] although everyone else would lose access!

Ron Miller 85763 says:

Yes ... there are definitely advantages to the Family Sharing. I'll be curious to see how it works. I could probably merge my cloud-data into my store account, and then we wouldn't need to share accounts any more.

One downside to family sharing is that app developers need to enable their apps for family sharing. I'll be curious to see how many do so.

Another downside is that I don't think that iTunes Match will work across family sharing. I really enjoy iTunes Match (especially now that music streams rather than downloading to the device).

davidbowser says:

I have hit the 10 device limit (and then some). I can confirm that you can only have 10 simultaneous devices and that Apple puts a 90 transfer on moving devices around (move out and you can't move back for 90 days).

I can say that hitting the limits of iTunes and iTunes Match sucks. I have a pretty big family and we have 5 Macs, and a whole slew (that's slang for 12 total) of iPod Touches, iPhones and iPads. I don't know how many times I have been asked, "why can't I download this episode of Spongebob" or something similar. I am hoping that the new options will have a solution for me.

If it was all the same, I would be OK with paying for the extra device access in iTunes Match, but that is not even an option.

arbourable says:

Have they got round to implementing parental controls?

Peter Cohen says:

Parental controls have been part of iOS for quite some time.

Iocane Powder says:

So does this merge the purchases of all participating users or does it only expose the purchases of the organizer to the group?

Also, when the band breaks up after a wildly successful 3rd album, in fighting and inflated egos, what happens to software that you have downloaded that was purchased on someone else's account?

luimende says:

Haha very nice!

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Brian Matute Diaz says:

Good point.. It sounds funny, but also, it's a big legal question.

luimende says:

We only have 3 devices now, my wife's iPhone, my sons iPod, and my iPhone, we all have separates now, we don't buy music, we use subscriptions, I'm not sure this will help us much. I was excited about it.

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Brian Matute Diaz says:

I use a "Store" account for my family and iCloud account.. I'm the organizer. How can i merge in one account all my purchases? Does Apple recognize the purchases i made with a different account (Store)?

denpat says:

I

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denpat says:

I'm Kim

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denpat says:

I'm Kimo

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