Ask LH: How Can I Share My iPad Between Multiple Users?

Ask LH: How Can I Share My iPad Between Multiple Users?

Hi Lifehacker, I’m about to purchase an iPad Air 2 — I’ve looked at the other tablet options and it seems the best fit for my needs. But here’s the challenge: I want to share it with my wife.

Clearly I have different app needs and usage patterns to my wife (I’m the geekier of the two of us), and there’s also the issue of the fingerprint scanner. I suppose we could each swipe different digits, but the ideal solution would be different profiles. Is there any way to have this on an iPad?

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Picture: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Dear SASA,

Unfortunately, you’ve hit on one of the main limitations of iOS — it doesn’t offer any methods for easily swapping between users on the same device. There were rumblings that this might change in iOS 8, but it didn’t happen.

There’s no telling if Apple will decide to add multi-account options in the future, but right now it doesn’t seem likely. The fact that it’s effectively impossible to expand storage on an iPhone or iPad is also a factor here; with multiple regular users, you’d run out of space even more quickly.

Android offers this facility, but you’ve said you’re happy with the iPad as a choice. Realistically, you only have two options for sharing. The first is to purchase a second tablet for your wife. That will keep Apple’s shareholders happy, but cost you more.

The other option is to use the same device but agree to use different apps. For instance, if you’re using the built-in Mail app, your wife could use a different third-party app or a web-based email solution. You could install an additional browser if you want distinct browsing histories. Sort apps for each of you into individual folders. On the fingerprint front, the simplest solution would be not to use it and stick with a password instead — at least for one of you.

Is that a particularly optimal solution? No — but if you don’t want to buy a second device, it’s a possible approach. If readers have other iPad sharing strategies to share, tell us in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • You need to understand that iPads are designed to be single user devices. There are options using device management utilities that allow you to swap between profiles which could be considered different users, but they are probably a bad fit for what you want to do.

    Knowing the way my wife and I use our iPads, trying to accommodate two users on one device would be a nightmare beyond the time sharing that this would involve.

    Really, you need to accept that iPads are not just laptops with a reduced form factor. They are devices with a different design philosophy.

    • I think the way you are talking is a bit condescending, I mean its not exactly a cheap device, and i think that there are many valid arguments for having multiple user accounts on the one device. Plenty of parents let their children use their ipads, It would be great to have a separate account where the children cant make any purchases or make any changes to the device. Or where you use an ipad as a sign in book at a building, different accounts would be really handy.

      Just because your use of the device wouldn’t work for sharing, doesn’t mean there aren’t many ways in which this would be a great option.

      And from a design perspective, it would be really easy to implement a sign on, I mean they already have a lock screen built into it. Adding a simple which account do you want would be pretty simple to do so.

      • … but Apple would make less money !
        And our (very tasty) Turkey probably wouldn’t have voted for Christmas.
        Apple won’t until people stop buying their devices.

      • He’s a dumb Apple fanboy resulting to pseudo logic to explain why one of iOS’s many deal-breaking flaws is actually a good thing, so he can maintain his false sense of superiority for using Apple products. Of course he’s gonna sound condescending.

    • IOS is Unix and perfectly multi-user capable.I d love to be able to setup restricted userland for my kids and their apps

  • If sharing the tablet is a major requirement, then you might need to go back and re-examine your initial decision on the iPad.

    As the article says, multi accounts is standard in Android and there’s quite a range of devices out there to choose from; maybe one of the close runners-up in your first round is worth a second look.

    (Anecdote: my wife didn’t want to take her 10″ iPad on a trip, and I was quite happy to lend her my Nexus 7, secure in the knowledge that my data and apps, etc. wouldn’t be affected.)

  • My wife and I share an iPhone, and we have no problem adding both our fingerprints (limit of 5 digits each).

  • Hi people, i just wanted to say that many here immediately try to charge apple with the responsability, when in reality they cannot add this functionality because Nokia (if i am not mistaken) has the patent on that.

    • Yeah Nokia put a patent on the ability to have multiple users on a device, well you better tell, the PS3, PS4, Xbox, Windows (every one I have used since the late 90s) Mac Book, etc.

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