Apple ID

Your 1st Apple ID

I don't know why there isn't better guidance from Apple about this out there, so wanted to write up a quick post about Apple IDs, iCloud accounts and the differences between them. This question comes up when someone new to the Apple ecosystem gets an Apple device and is faced with how best to get setup with this new device. I have been dealing with this on a couple of fronts lately. At work, my employer has finally switched us over from Blackberry to iPhones and now we have quite a few people that are getting their 1st iPhone and this is their 1st Apple product. I've also helped a family member who recently switched to an iPhone and this was their 1st Apple product as well.

What is an Apple ID?

An Apple ID is an account with Apple that is required to do just about anything with Apple. Apple has an entire list of services or features that require an Apple ID here, but some of the big hitters are: - Purchase Apps - Purchase music, movies and TV shows in iTunes - FaceTime - Make iBooks Store purchases - Register with Game Center

If you already have an Apple ID you are most likely just going to want to use the one you already have. Some people like to have a seperate Apple ID for work and depending on your work situation you may want to do it that way. The benefit of just having a single Apple ID is that you get to use all the content you have already purchased with that existing Apple ID. If you create a brand new Apple ID you are starting over with nothing (unless you are going to use Family Sharing but that is a whole other topic). If you need to create an Apple ID go here and follow the instructions. I suggest you do this from a computer if possible rather than an iOS device. Apple doesn't tell you this, but I ran into an issue completing the sign up process and had to call Apple for help. They recommended always creating the Apple ID from a computer if possible. Other tips about creating an Apple ID: - Use an email address you intend to keep for a VERY LONG TIME. Avoid using a cable company email that you may lose if you switch cable companies. I would also recommend you use an email service that offers 2 factor authentication to better protect emails you get from Apple concerning your Apple ID account. - Apple requires you to add a credit card to your account when you create your Apple ID. This is purely for identification purposes. If you have no intent to ever make a purchase with your Apple ID or you are just not comfortable having a credit card on file with Apple, you can remove the credit card once the sign up process is complete. From that point on you can use gift cards to fund the account and avoiod ever having a credit card on file.

iCloud Account

The other type of account with Apple is an iCloud account. An iCloud account allows you do to many of the things that an Apple ID does EXCEPT for making purchases. An iCloud account also does one thing that an Apple ID does not, it gives you a brand new Apple provided email account. So why would you want an Apple ID AND an iCloud account? If you are the only person using the Apple ecosystem in your family and will be for the forseeable future then you probably don't need both an Apple ID and an iCloud account. The only drawback to this approach is that you won't get an Apple email account if you just have an Apple ID. The reason you might want to have both an Apple ID and an iCloud is if more than one person in your family is going to use the single Apple ID for purchases (apps, movies ,TV shows and iBooks). In that case, there is one Apple ID that is used on all devices in your family but each individual family member can each have their own iCloud account, which gives them their own: - Email account - iMessage address (for text messages) - Find my friends account - Game Center account - Safari web site favorites - Contacts - You each get 5 Gb of free iCloud storage - Seperate photo streams

Clearly, if there is more than one person in your family you are going to want seperate iCloud accounts and share a single Apple ID (so you can all use and share what has been purchased). In my case, I have a wife and 3 kids. Each of my kids have their own iCloud account and my wife and I share an iCloud account. We share an account because it is handy for us to share contacts in a single location and have the same family email address that we both access. Some people may not want to do it this way, but it works well for us.

Hopefully that clears things up a little bit. Think of an iCloud account as more of a personal account and an Apple ID like an adminstrator account that gives you purchasing power. Oh, and welcome to the Apple ecosystem!

Selling Your Activation Locked iOS Device

If you are thinking about selling your iOS 7 device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) then you need to follow the directions below BEFORE you sell your device.

1. Go into the "Settings" on your iOS device and turn off "Find My iPhone". This can be done by navigating through the following menus within "Settings":

 Settings > Privacy > Find My iPhone (or iPad, or iPod depending on your device type)

When you turn on "Find My iPhone" in iOS you are also turning on something called "Activation Lock". Activation Lock is a theft deterrent that Apple built into the iOS 7 operating system. Once activated the device can't be wiped or have it's settings significantly changed unless the iCloud account password associated with the device is entered first. So if someone stole your iPhone and tried to wipe the device so they could use it they wouldn't be able to do so unless they also had your iCloud password.

2. Next you need to completely wipe the device. This can be done by going into:

 Settings > General > Reset

and choosing "Erase All Content and Settings."

3. To be sure that your deceive is no longer Activation Locked (if you have another iOS device), use another iOS device and use the app "Find my iPhone". If your aren't already signed into your iCloud account you used on the device you just wiped, please do so. Once signed in go to the "My Devices" tab and make sure the device you just wiped in NOT listed there. If it is listed there, select it and then select the "Remove from Account" option. This will do the same thing as step 1 listed above, it turns off Activation Lock on the device.

If you don't have another iOS device, go to and sign in with your iCloud account email address and password. From there you can get into the "Find My iPhone" app just like you were on another iOS device and follow the same instructions I just listed above to ensure Activation Lock is removed from your old device.

4. The last step isn't required but is a good idea to do. Go to the Apple Support Profile Website (, login using your Apple ID and go ahead and remove the device you are selling from you profile. This profile is used whenever you call or go into an Apple Store and get support or service on your device. Removing it from your profile will make it easier for you and the Apple genius to determine which device you need help with if you don't have a bunch of old devices you no longer own in your profile. If you never registered your device with Apple then it won't show up here.

The reason I am posting about this is because I failed to follow these exact steps when I sold one of my devices and I had to remotely remove the Activation Lock from the device after the fact (which is step 3 above). Apparently just performing step 2 above DOES NOT remove Activation Lock from your device, even though this has been described as doing a "factory restore" for many years now. With iOS 7 and Activation Lock a complete erase of all content and settings in no longer restoring your device to factory conditions because it is still Activation Locked. I did a lot of searching for information on the web about this and there is a lot of bad information out there. Many sources claim that just performing step 2 above removes the Activation Lock, but it does not. You must perform step 1 first but verify with step 3 just to be sure. Hopefully this keeps you from making the same mistake I did...

Managing Multiple Apple IDs

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)
  • FaceTime
  • iMessage
  • HomeSharing
  • 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!

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