Contacts and iMessages appearing on multiple iPhones

Q: My husband and I each have our own iPhone 4. My phone that has the only iTunes account already was upgraded previously, while my husband recently upgraded his to iOS 6 on the same computer with the same iTunes account as mine. Now he has all of my contacts and gets all my texts, and I get all his things as well. Also when he texts or messages me. It goes right back to his iPhone. His phone is a business phone and I don’t want to delete his contacts on my phone because it deletes them on his. Any ideas what I can do to clear up this mess so we don’t get each others things? Or could you please explain to me how to do this?

– Cindy

A: It sounds like the problem here is that you’re not only sharing an iTunes account, but have also used the same Apple ID for other services including iCloud and iMessage, which of course means that you’re sharing all of your data between those services as well.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you do not need to use the same Apple ID for your iCloud account(s) as you do for your iTunes Store account. As a general rule, although it’s common to share a single “family” iTunes Store account for the sake of purchased media and apps, each family member should have their own separate Apple ID for services like iCloud and iMessage in order to keep your data separate. You can either setup two completely new Apple IDs, or one of you can use the Apple ID that you’re already using for the iTunes Store. See Sharing iTunes & iCloud Accounts in a Family for more background information.

While the shared contacts and text messages both stem from sharing the same Apple IDs, the specifics are handled a bit differently.

Contacts

The situation with your contacts is relatively straightforward; at this point you’re both syncing contacts—and possibly even other information like calendar events—to the same iCloud account, so of course you’re going to have this information appearing on both devices. If this wasn’t happening prior to the iOS 6 update on your husband’s iPhone, it was likely simply that he had not enabled iCloud Contact sync and was only storing his contacts locally, and this was automatically enabled as part of the upgrade.

To sort this out, you’ll basically need to transfer this information to each of your own separate iCloud accounts, after which you can delete whichever contact entries don’t belong to you.

To do this, go into Settings, iCloud on your husband’s iPhone and scroll down to find the “Delete Account” button and tap it. You will be prompted to confirm that you want to delete the iCloud account from your device, after which you will receive a second prompt asking you what you want to do with the contacts, calendars, reminders, and bookmarks from that iCloud account. Select “Keep on My iPhone” to retain a local copy of this data.

Contacts and iMessages appearing on multiple iPhones

At this point, all of the shared contacts will be copied to a local database on his iPhone only, and will no longer be syncing with iCloud at all. Once this process has been completed, you can go back to the iCloud Settings on the iPhone and sign into (or sign up for) your husband’s new iCloud account. If you’ve setup a brand new iCloud account, all of this information will be automatically uploaded from his iPhone to the new, separate account. If you’re using an existing iCloud account, you will see a prompt indicating that the local data will be merged with what’s already in the iCloud account; simply tap the “Merge” button to continue in this case.

 

Contacts and iMessages appearing on multiple iPhones

If you like, you can repeat this process to switch to a new Apple ID for your own iCloud account on your iPhone as well, but there’s probably no need to worry about this as you can continue using your iTunes Store Apple ID for your own iCloud account, and it’s one less account and password to deal with.

Once both devices are using separate iCloud accounts, you can simply delete whatever contacts you don’t want on a given device without affecting the other person’s contacts, since they’re now stored separately. If you still want to share some of your contacts, you can do this by setting up a second iCloud account on each of your iPhones that is used only for shared contacts. See Managing multiple iCloud accounts for Contacts for more information on how to do this.

iMessage

You’ll likely find that you’re actually not receiving all of each other’s text messages, but rather only those sent with other iPhone users. In short, actual “text messages” (SMS), normally displayed in green on your iPhone, should still only be seen on the iPhone they were sent to or from. On the other hand, iMessages, which are displayed as blue, are likely appearing on both of your iPhones as you’re using the same Apple ID to sign into iMessage on both devices.

The reason that this only began happening after your husband updated his iPhone to iOS 6 is due to a new feature that Apple introduced in iOS 6 allowing an iMessage phone number to be used on multiple iOS devices. This is primarily designed to allow you to ensure that your iMessages are in sync across all of your own devices, such as an iPad or a Mac, but it also allows your iMessage phone number to be shared across multiple iPhones.

When you updated to iOS 6 previously, your phone number was added to your iMessage account. When your husband recently updated his iPhone to iOS 6, your phone number was then added from the iMessage account onto his iPhone, and his phone number was pushed up to your shared iMessage account and thereby added to your iPhone. In essence, each of your iPhones now has both of your phone numbers on it for receiving iMessages. You can confirm this by going into your iPhone Settings app, selecting Messages, and tapping on the “Send & Receive” option.

 

Contacts and iMessages appearing on multiple iPhones

Each iPhone’s actual phone number will appear as the first, greyed out entry and cannot be deselected. However, you can choose to disable receiving iMessages at the second phone number or any of the e-mail addresses shown simply by tapping on the entry to de-select that item.

To prevent this from becoming a problem in the future, however, the best option is to simply switch your husband’s iPhone over to using his own Apple ID for iMessage. You can do this by tapping on the Apple ID shown at the top of this screen, choosing “Sign Out” and then signing in with his new Apple ID. Doing this will automatically remove his phone number from your Apple ID and re-associate it with his, so it should disappear from the Messages section on your iPhone as soon as he’s properly setup under his new account.

You’ll also want to repeat this procedure for FaceTime, since it uses a similar configuration to iMessage for phone numbers and Apple IDs. You can find this under the FaceTime section in the iPhone Settings app and can use the same Apple ID for both iMessage and FaceTime, and in fact might as well use the same one as you set up for his iCloud account.

Note that as with iCloud, you can also choose to switch the Apple ID used on your own iPhone, but there’s no reason you can’t go on using your existing iTunes Store Apple ID for iMessage, FaceTime, and iCloud for your own devices.

 

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