Multiple Apple IDs and iOS devices in a Family


Q: I have an iPhone 4 with iOS 5 set up. My iCloud account is set up with my Apple ID. My two kids are each getting their own iPod touch soon. They each have game apps on my iPhone that are backed up to my iCloud account. When I set up their iPods I want to be able to download their games with the progress made on my iPhone intact. I’m thinking I would need to set up two additional iCloud 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 touch to download the apps with data intact. Is this 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/video. 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 5GB of storage for free or will all devices share the same 5GB that I started with my original iCloud account on my iPhone? 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? Sorry for the list of questions but the iCloud stuff has me a little confused and I’m looking to maximize use of all of these features while controlling the content on the iPods since my kids are young.

– Neil

A: There are actually several issues here to consider in terms of how Apple IDs and iCloud accounts work for the various services on iOS. The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that you can use different Apple IDs for some of the different services—they don’t all need to use the same ID. The ID that you use for the actual iCloud service (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari, Find My iPhone, Documents and Data, Photo Stream and Backups) does not need to be the same as the Apple ID used for the iTunes Store, iMessage, FaceTime or Game Center; you can use a separate Apple ID for each of these services, or the same Apple ID for two or more, or any combination you like.

In response to your first question regarding saved game progress, this actually has nothing to do directly with iCloud unless the games are specifically written to store their data in iCloud—most are not, however. Saved game progress will actually be backed up to iCloud or iTunes as part of your complete device backup, and unfortunately the only way to get this data back is to restore your complete iPhone backup onto each iPod touch; unfortunately there is no simple way to restore iOS backup selectively.

Therefore, there’s really no point in pre-creating two new iCloud accounts on your iPhone, as this will not help in any way. If game progress is important, you will need to restore your iPhone backup—from either iCloud or iTunes—to each of your kids’ new iPods. You can then simply delete any applications and accounts that you don’t want on their devices, leaving their games in place with the saved progress intact.

Even if you’re working with games that save their data in iCloud, you will not be able to transfer these directly to other iCloud accounts on your iPhone; only the primary iCloud account gets access to Documents & Data, with secondary iCloud accounts only usable for Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Reminders. Again, it’s probably simplest not to bother setting up any additional iCloud accounts on your own iPhone as there’s really no point in doing so.

When your kids get their iPods, you can setup iCloud accounts for them on their own devices, and they will each have access to their own free 5GB of storage for iOS device backups, as well as the other iCloud services such as Photo Stream and Documents and Data. Note that you can use Parental Restrictions to lock down the iCloud settings once the account has been setup to prevent them from accessing iCloud services that you may not want them to use.

For the iTunes Store, you can easily continue using your existing iTunes Store account across all of your family devices to purchase apps and media content. This is really as simple as just continuing to use the same account you’ve been using all along, and again the account used for this purpose has no relation to the other services on your iOS device such as iCloud, FaceTime or iMessage.

For iMessage and FaceTime, you can either use your existing Apple ID and setup additional e-mail addresses for each of your kids, or have them log in with their own Apple IDs that they can then associate their e-mail addresses with. There’s no specific reason to go one way or the other here, except for the fact that if you share a common Apple ID, it is possible for them to add your e-mail address to their devices; separate Apple IDs will keep them effectively restricted to using their own e-mail address only. If you’re going to setup individual iCloud accounts for each of your kids, they will effectively have Apple IDs that can be used with iMessage and FaceTime as well, so it probably makes sense for them to use those Apple IDs rather than sharing yours.



Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.