Ask LH: What Are The Pitfalls Of iOS 8 Family Sharing?

Ask LH: What Are The Pitfalls Of iOS 8 Family Sharing?

Hey Lifehacker, We have been using a single Apple ID for all of our iPod and iPad devices for the sharing of App purchases between family members. Now that Apple has introduced Family Sharing with iOS 8, what are the pitfalls to watch out for if we want to give the kids individual Apple IDs for their devices? Will any saved games/progress/in app purchases be deleted from their devices? Thanks, Share And Share Alike

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Dear SASA,

Family sharing allows you to officially share your account purchases — songs, apps and videos — to up to six different Apple IDs. It’s the approved way of dealing with an issue that many of us bypassed by simply authorising multiple devices under the one ID, although for those not keen on Family Sharing it doesn’t appear that Apple is putting an actual hard limit on doing it the old way in any case.

In the upside column, Family Sharing does allow you to set limits on the spending of your offspring, so while they don’t need your Apple ID password to make purchases, they do have to get them manually approved by you, with a warning message sent to your iOS device whenever they try to make a purchase.

They shouldn’t lose any existing in-app purchases or saves, because those are tied to your existing Apple ID, although if you’re particularly worried you could always drop each app developer a line to check how they manage actual saves; if they’re going to be locked into your iCloud account only there could potentially be some issues, for example.

On the downside, the biggest issue with Family Sharing is that it’s an iOS 8-only feature, which means that if you’ve been diligently handing down old iOS devices to family members and they’re on original iPads, 4th Gen or earlier iPod Touches or iPhone 4 or earlier, they won’t be able to use it at all. Even the fringe case devices — the iPhone 4s and the iPad 2nd Generation — aren’t great under iOS 8, but they can at least access it.

The other more minor issue is that setting up Family Sharing entails giving over a little more of your data to Apple by designating each family “member” as part of your group. Apple’s pretty insistent that it’s not in the business of selling privacy data, but if you’re nervous about that kind of thing, it’s a small downside.


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  • The bit about approving your kids’ purchases is only true if they’re under 18. The problem I have with family sharing is that I have adult kids too, and if you add them to family sharing, they get to buy anything they want and it all goes on my credit card! No thanks!

  • I really don’t see how it’s easier than the old way. I suspect this is apples way of introducing device limits by introducing the solution before they create the problem.

    To me it just seems like another thing to have to manage, and since I’d be the one that would have to deal with all the extra iTunes accounts (dad’s family tech support service), several other things to manage.

    Please explain how this new thing is better?

    • Well, one day, kids are going to grow up and leave the house.

      Hard to imagine, I know.

      This way, when the kids leave the house they’re not tied to their parent’s account, and have bought all the games themsleves. While they’re on the family’s wifi though, each member can access apps other family members have bought.

  • I’ve got a question. I’d like to do family sharing for my 3 teenage children (13 to 17) but I don’t have an apple device. Can I do ‘ask to buy’ without an ios device, just through the iTunes on my laptop?

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