Apple’s mantra is design simplicity, but when it comes to managing Apple IDs I think Apple forgot about that design guideline. If you are just a one person household then stop reading now because you already have it made! If not and you have multiple people that have idevices and they all look to you for tech support then stop pulling your hair out and keep reading.
The Best Approach
If possible, the best way to manage a family of idevices is to have just one single Apple ID for all iTunes and App Store (both iOS and Mac App store) accounts. That way you can share purchased applications across all your family members. If your family is too large to do this or you already use more than one Apple ID to purchase applications then for now you need to continue down that same path. Apple has yet to come up with a way to merge multiple Apple IDs into one. Until they do, you either need to juggle multiple accounts for purchasing or bite the bullet and switch to just using one Apple ID and repurchase what you absolutely need to on the one Apple ID you decided to move forward with.
The rest of the Apple IDs
So what about all the other uses an Apple ID besides purchasing apps and music? Below is a list of other reasons you may need to use an Apple ID:
- iCloud (Apple’s version of Dropbox, used for synching documents & data)
- Game Center
My family uses just about every one of these services and for most of this services you typically want to have your own ID. For example, for FaceTime and iMessage you don’t want to share IDs and get all fo your kids text messages (ok, maybe you do but I’m not touching privacy on this post). The easiest way to have everyone in your family use all of these services separately is to get everyone their own Apple IDs. Its free to get an Apple ID, so why not. So, for example, my wife and I share an iCloud account for contact, calendars, documents and data because alot of the documents we have in iCloud we each want access to. Our kids on the other hand could care less about our iCloud documents so they have their own Apple IDs for iCloud. Then for FaceTime, iMessage and Game Center we each have our own separate Apple ID. A year or so ago I came across a really handy Apple ID Worksheet that I have been using ever since to keep track of the complicated madness that is our family Apple ID digital life.
I would love to give credit to whomever put this sheet together but alas I haven’t been able to find it again the web (I’m sure it’s out there somewhere). That’s the main reason I wrote this post is to share this really handy worksheet. If you want a PDF version of this worksheet head over to my "Contact" page and fill out a request form and I'll shoot one your way.
Gigaom wrote a really good piece on deciding how many Apple IDs you should have for your entire family. Also, if you want to really do a deep dive into Apple IDs I suggest you read this recent article by Forbes.
Any other useful tools or tips out there about managing Apple IDs? I’d love to hear them!