How do I share one iCloud Photo Library within a family?
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Q: Hi Jesse, I ran across Sharing iTunes & iCloud Accounts in a Family from 2012 and thought it was the best thing I’ve found so far about explaining how to use different iCloud accounts to enable different behaviors in a family with multiple iOS devices. It gets confusing fast, though! Now that Apple has released Photos, I wish you would update/expand that article to cover iTunes Match and the new Photos app. Some case scenarios would be great. I have a family of two with a Mac mini, MacBook Pro, two iPhones, and one iPad. I know iTunes Match does not support Family Sharing, but we we both want to be able to share the same iTunes Match account, we want all of our photos to go into one iCloud Photo Library account, we want a shared calendar, and we want separate Messages and FaceTime settings.
A: You’ve probably already guessed that this is one area in which Apple’s Family Sharing lets you down pretty hard. iTunes Match is not supported by Family Sharing, and ultimately, neither is the new iCloud Photo Library feature. Factor in the other limitations to Family Sharing and one has to wonder whether it’s really worth bothering with it at all, particularly between spouses.
Ultimately, the answer to this is to pretty much forget about Family Sharing entirely and essentially go back to sharing a single iTunes and iCloud account — essentailly the same process from the earlier sharing article you referenced. Very little has changed in principle since that article was first published — you can still have multiple iCloud accounts, although as of iOS 7, Find My iPhone and Safari Bookmarks are now also restricted to only the primary iCloud account, leaving secondary accounts only usable for Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Notes.
One other thing that remains unchanged is that the Apple IDs used for the different iOS services remain distinct, so you can use a different account for iCloud, iTunes, iMessage, FaceTime, and even Game Center. This means that you can share an iTunes account, while still using your own accounts for iMessage and FaceTime.
Sharing the same iTunes Match account
This one is probably the simplest of all, and has remained unchanged since iTunes Match and iCloud first debuted. Simply pick whichever iTunes Store account you’re using for iTunes Match and configure it under Settings, iTunes & App Store on your iOS devices, and in iTunes on your Macs. All of your iTunes Store and App Store purchases will be made using this account, but that’s not really a problem as long as you both know the password, and in fact is generally an advantage in a typical couples situation, since you’ll have the benefit of sharing in-app purchases you make, as well as not having any restrictions on whether apps themselves can be shared. Again, here you’re basically pretending Family Sharing doesn’t exist, and simply sharing one account. Apple still allows up to ten devices to share a single iTunes Store account, so you’re not likely to bump into any limitations by doing this in a typical two-user situation.
Note that it’s unclear how this might work when Apple’s new streaming music service comes out, as streaming services typically have more restrictive device limitations, particularly for simultaneous listening. For listening to your own music in iTunes Match for now, however, you’ll be fine with multiple devices sharing the same account.
Sharing one iCloud Photo Library
You can handle this one in pretty much the same way as you would have done for iCloud Photo Stream in the prior article. Basically, you want both devices to use the same primary iCloud account — whichever one has your iCloud Photo Library setup, and has probably paid for the increased storage as part of the same process — remember that iCloud Storage upgrades don’t get shared through Family Sharing either.
For the primary user of that account, nothing really changes, as you’ll probably still want to use everything in pretty much the same way. For the other user, however, what you’ll need to do is turn OFF Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Notes on that shared account (unless you want to share some of this information — this can be a useful way to share contacts, for instance). Then go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the Settings app on that user’s iOS device, and Internet Accounts under System Preferences on the user’s Mac, and add their iCloud account as a secondary account. This will give that user access to his or her own Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Notes, while still sharing everything else, including iCloud Photo Library, with the primary account.
The downside here is that you may end up also sharing additional things you don’t want, so you’ll either have to find a way to make that work, or turn those OFF entirely on one or both devices. Backups will be fine, as each device stores its backup separately, and in fact you’ll benefit from any increased storage space you’ve purchased on a single account, rather than having to buy a storage increase twice. Similarly, Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac should probably be left on for all devices, which will replicate what you would get if you were using Family Sharing anyway.
Features like iCloud Drive, Safari, Passbook and Keychain may be a bit more problematic, however, depending on how much you want to share. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this — you either share everything in those categories, or nothing at all. Of course, you can still simply leave them OFF on the other person’s device to share them among your own devices.
Depending on the apps you’re using, the one that’s the most potentially problematic of all these is iCloud Drive, as many apps will save data there without any expectation that more than one user might be using the same account — games are notorious for this, for instance, but even other apps may store preferences and other data. You’ll have to examine the apps that each of you use, to determine if this is likely to be a problem or not. In some cases it might even still be an advantage, since sharing this data can be useful. You can see a list of which apps are storing data in iCloud Drive, and even turn some off on an app-by-app basis, by going into your iCloud settings and selecting the iCloud Drive option. This should at least help you see what you’re dealing with, and if there’s a situation where collisions might occur between data from different users, you can always turn off that individual app for one or both of you, depending on whether you really need that data shared across your own devices — most apps will work fine without iCloud Drive support as long as you aren’t concerned about accessing data or settings from them on more than one device.
If you follow the steps above for configuring your iCloud accounts, you’ll still be using your own, separate accounts for your Calendars, so calendar sharing doesn’t really change in any meaningful way. If you’ve configured Family Sharing already, you’ll have a “Family” calendar already setup for you, but keep in mind that there’s nothing particularly special this calendar; it’s really just a shared calendar with the membership pre-defined by the family sharing group. So if you haven’t already setup Family Sharing, you don’t need to do so just to create this Family calendar — you can easily share any calendar you like just by going into your “Calendar” app, bringing up the list of Calendars, and tapping the small “i” button that appears to the right of the calendar name. From here, just type “Add Person” and enter their details, and they’ll get a shared calendar invitation.
This provides more options than simply using the “Family” calendar as well, since you can easily share your personal calendars with each other so you can keep track of your schedules, while also having a shared calendar for actual family events.
Separate Messaging and FaceTime settings
This is another one that’s very simple and remains unchanged with Family Sharing and recent iOS versions. As explained above, separate Apple IDs are used for all of the different accounts on your devices. Of course they can all use the same Apple ID if you want, but they don’t have to. Current iOS versions will set this all up for you during initial device setup, asking you for one single Apple ID during the Setup Assistant, which is then used for every account on your device. You can very easily can go in and change it afterward.
So with that in mind, go to your FaceTime and iMessage settings in your iOS Settings app, or within the respective FaceTime and Messages apps on your Mac, and just log in using whichever Apple IDs you want to use. In fact, if you began using separate Apple IDs for these services, chances are you won’t need to change anything at all — simply switching iTunes and iCloud accounts through their respective sections won’t change anything in your Messages and FaceTime settings, although you can still take a trip in there to confirm this is the case if you like.
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