Configure Apple IDs on family iOS devices

Q: I have an iPhone 4 with iOS 5. My iCloud account is set up with my Apple ID. My two kids are each getting their own iPod touch soon. They each have games on my iPhone that are backed up to my iCloud account. When I set up their new iPods I want to be able to download their games to their new devices with the progress made on my iPhone intact. I’m thinking I would need to set up two additional cloud accounts on my iPhone with the same Apple ID (one for the apps specific to each kid) but with a new description of the account, then use those accounts on each iPod to download the apps with the data intact. Am I correct? I also want to be able to use my Apple ID for all purchases (songs, apps, videos) for all devices so I can control what they purchase and so they can download previously purchased songs and videos. So I would just use the same Apple ID for the Store in Settings on each iPod touch, correct? By doing this, will each kid be able to have their own iCloud account that gives them each 5 GB of storage for free or will all devices share the same 5 GB that I started with my original iCloud account? I also want each kid to have their own iMessage and FaceTime “accounts” and I assume they do not need a new Apple ID for this and that they only need their own email address to make this work. Correct? Sorry for the list of questions but the cloud has me a little confused and I’m looking to maximize use of all of these features while controlling the content on the iPod touches since my kids are young.

– Neil

A: This first important point to keep in mind is that there are five features on an iOS 5 device that use an Apple ID—iCloud, the iTunes Store, iMessage, FaceTime and Game Center. These can either use the same Apple ID, you can use five completely different ones or you can go with any combination you like; the Apple ID’s used for each of these features are in no way related to each other.

With regard to restoring your kids’ games to the new iPods, unless you’re using one of the very few games that actually directly store game progress in iCloud (as opposed to simply in an iCloud backup) there is no way to automatically get that data back simply by logging into an iCloud account. If you install the apps fresh on a new device, you start with a fresh set of data.

The only workaround is to restore your iPhone backup to each of the new iPods; a backup can be restored to any device running the same or later version of iOS that was used to originally make the backup, regardless of the type or model of device. Doing this will restore everything that is on your iPhone onto each iPod touch, including the saved game data. You can then go through and delete all of the apps and other data you don’t want on the new iPods. Note that there are some third-party utilities that can extract specific data out of an iTunes backup and allow you to restore that data individually, but they generally require some knowledge of what specific files you’re looking for and in this case it’s probably far easier just to do a full restore and then delete what you don’t need.

Beyond that, you can setup each of your kids with their own iCloud accounts and they will get their own 5GB of free storage and have their own set of iCloud features such as Photo Stream, Documents, Backups, Calendars, Contacts, and so forth. You can also setup multiple iCloud accounts on a given device if you wanted to share certain types of information with more than one device. See Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iCloud for more information on how to do this.

For the iTunes Store, you are correct that you can simply setup each device with the same iTunes Store account on the Store section under the Settings app. This will allow you to share all purchases and download previous purchases, but keep in mind that a password will be required each time you want to download something, including previously purchased content. Another alternative if you want your kids to be able to control their own purchasing somewhat is to set them up each with their own iTunes Store account and then use the iTunes Allowance feature to provide them with their own money to spend on either a one-time or monthly basis. The downside to this approach, however, is that they won’t be able to easily share content between devices except by syncing it via iTUnes. They will also only be able to switch accounts for re-downloading content once every 90 days.

For iMessage and FaceTime, you can either share a family Apple ID and simply have them add their own e-mail addresses to the “family” account or you can have them each use their own Apple IDs. If they will have their own iCloud account, they can use that Apple ID for iMessage and FaceTime as well, which which will probably be easier as you cannot associate the same e-mail address with more than one Apple ID.

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