Identity Crisis: Siri and iMessages

Maybe I have too many iDevices in my family (not possible), but I've run into this issue several times. It happened when I got my new iPhone 5 last year. I pull it out of the box and start talking to my shiny new phone via Siri and Siri calls me "Erin." So I politely tell Siri that I am not Erin. So what does Siri do? She says, "Ok, I'll call you 'not Erin' from now on is that ok?" No Siri, that's not ok! Then just a few days ago my wife finally catches up to the future of telephony and got the iPhone 5. She opens it up and Siri is calling her "Clark"...my name. So now her new phone thinks its mine and my iPhone and iPad have taken on my wife's identity. Since I've had so much fun doing this lately I thought I would share with everyone how to quickly and easily solve the identity crisis that can occur when swapping or upgrading iDevices.

Siri, just don't call me Shirley

What you want Siri to call you is between you and Siri. But remember, that just asking Siri via voice command to call you a name doesn't properly identify YOU as the owner of the phone. In our case Siri was telling my wife that she was "Clark", but because her and Siri "were friends" Siri could call her "Erin." What that means is that Siri has assigned YOU a nickname field in the contact card that is assigned as the iPhone's owner. So how do you make sure that your contact card in Contacts is what your iPhone is using as the iPhone owner's card? There are two things to check here:

1.) If you have a device with Siri you need to go to Settings > General > Siri > My Info

From there you will be able to select the card in your Contacts that you want       associated with Siri so Siri knows who the owner of the iPhone is.

2.) Whether your device has Siri or not you will also want to check that Mail, Contacts, Calendars is also identifying you as YOU. Go to Mail, Contact, Calendars > My Info

From there you will be able to select the card in your Contacts that you want identified to identify as YOU when you are using things like Mail, Messages and Calendar. 

IMessage and FaceTime Contact Methods

Another thing that can easily be confusing when dealing with multiple devices across a family and multiple email and phone numbers is how to assign phone numbers and email addresses to individual devices so that each individual person can be contacted differently for FaceTime and iMessages. The best way to ensure that your device is setup the way you want it is to go to Settings and under Messages > Send & Receive you should see 3 things:

  • The Apple ID associated with iMessages at the very top
  • A list of phone numbers and email addresses that can be reached by iMessage
  • A list of phone numbers and email addresses that can be used to start a new iMessage (this one is important because if you want to be able to receive an iMessage with your personal email but you don't want people who don't already have your personal email address to have it... you want to make sure your personal email address is NOT listed here.

There is a similar setup for FaceTime in Settings under FaceTime > 

There you will find a switch to turn on and off FaceTime (in case you don't ever want to be contacted via FaceTime, a specification of the Apple ID associated with FaceTime and a list of additional email addresses that you can be reached at on this device via FaceTime.

Rather than go into great detail about the setup I will point to an excellent article by iLounge here. But I do want to explain two very important points. You can use the same Apple ID email address on multiple devices for both iMessages and FaceTime, but the way you distinguish between devices is by adding additional email addresses and phone numbers to each device. That way if you want to iMessage or FaceTime between 2 different devices that are using the same Apple ID there is a way to tell the two devices apart. Another really important thing to understand is that you CAN NOT associate the same non-Apple ID email address with more than one device. For example, I was wanting to associate my gmail address with both my iPhone and iPad so that I could get a FaceTime call on both devices at the same time and decide which one I wanted to use (in case I only had one device on me at the time). But this is not possible. Only the main Apple ID associated with iMessages and FaceTime will ring or message all devices at the same time.

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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