Setting up Apple Family Sharing

This afternoon I spent some time with my ex-wife setting up our Apple devices to be part of an Apple “Family” in order to make it easier to manage our son’s iPad. Overall the process is straightforward but I’ll share a few tips we learned along the way

iCloud Storage is not a shared resource.
Our son’s iPad was originally setup under my ex-wife’s Apple ID (because at the time Apple’s terms and services agreement required a child to be 13 or older to have their own Apple ID). My ex-wife had purchased extra iCloud storage for her and my son to share so that between her iPad, her iPhone and my son’s iPad they had enough storage space to backup everything to iCloud. When we switched our son’s iPad over to his own ID, great news – he gets 5GB of free storage. Bad news: my ex-wife now has paid for more storage than she needs. Sure she could cancel, but it’s surprising that Apple didn’t bundle iCloud storage as one of the “shared” features.

There is one other “bonus” feature here that Apple still has not addressed. Almost every app that was “Purchased” for my son’s iPad was purchased when it was setup under my ex-wife’s Apple ID, which means that technically each application is owned by her. In order to have the apps running on my son’s iPad or to run updates to them, the iPad asks for her apple ID and password. I’m curious about what would happen if I delete one of these apps from the iPad, then go back to the Shared purchases and install it. Would this ownership chain now be broken and work properly? Something to test later.

    Make sure you grant the second parent Parent/Guardian rights.

I set myself up as the “Organizer” which means it’s my credit card that is the shared purchase account. After adding my ex-wife, when she first accepts the invite it is important that you go back to Settings > ICloud > Family > And select the second parent and enable them to be “Parent/Guardian” – this way both of us can approve requests for our son to be able to buy.

    The shared “Family” calendar did not show up at all on my ex-wife’s iPhone until I had added the first event to the calendar.

As soon as the first event was added she received an alert and then all of us sudden the new calendar showed up in the Calendar application. Bug, or feature, we wasted 5 minutes digging through settings menus trying to figure out why it showed up the first time on my IPhone, but didn’t populate anywhere on her device. Once the calendar appears on all the devices, you might also want to review permissions for each person to determine who can edit vs view. To do so open Calendar app, choose Calendars from the bottom center of the app, click Edit in the top Left, scroll down to iCloud and tap on Family > which will now display the “Shared with” settings. In my case I needed my ex-wife to be able to View and Edit, while my 6-year old should only be able to View.

    Not all apps can be shared.

It’s unclear from Apple’s Tech Support website exactly what the requirements are to be able to share purchased apps. I assume it’s up to the developer’s but we noticed a number of apps would not allow sharing. Here’s a handy article that explains how to hide apps using iTunes if you don’t want to share them

    Sharing photos, simple but not as robust as I had hoped.

As the Organizer, launch the Photos app, choose the Shared option from the bottom center, and if you are part of a “Family” you now see a new sharing option called Family. Add some photos to it and your other devices are notified you have now shared pictures. By default like other Photo streams, these are private to the members of the family unless you edit the album and enable the “Public website” option. Once you’ve added your first photos and they are shared among the other devices the rest of the “Family” members can add or comment on the photos shared.

If you are using a Windows computer make sure you install both the latest version of iTunes as well as the latest version of the iCloud control panel (version 4.x was the latest version as of this afternoon) oh and while you are in there, be very careful to NOT enable iCloud drive. This feature isn’t ready if your “Family” has members that are using Apple computers. Apple users are waiting for Yosemite, the next major OS X release from Apple before the iCloud drive features will work properly. This update is expected near the end of October 2014.

We’re on day one with “Family” sharing and there are still a host of things we haven’t tried yet. As we uncover more of this new feature I’ll update this post.

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