The premise behind Family Sharing is pretty simple. A “Family” of up to six people, including children, can share each other’s purchases from iTunes, iBooks and the App Store without the need to share accounts. Previously, the easiest way to share purchases was for everyone to use the same iTunes user name and password, and once it was established that an app or song or book had previously been purchased you would be able to download it from the cloud for free. Now, Apple has finally created a way for Family members to share purchases from their own individual accounts without having to use the same credentials. In addition, now the whole Family can share and add photos, contribute to the same family calendar, and locate where each other is at any given time provided everyone shares their location.
When Family Sharing is turned on, a shared album is set up automatically in the Photos app on all family members’ devices. Then everyone can add photos, videos, and comments to the album and be notified when something new is added.
To get started one adult has to be established as the “Organizer” or person in charge. In addition to taking the lead on deciding who will be included in the family, this person will also be the one responsible for payment of all purchases (iTunes, iBooks & App Store) made by all the family members. The Organizer sends out email invites to individuals they want to include. The invitees are emailed and can accept or decline the invitation from their email. If an email doesn’t go through, or is accidentally declined, the Organizer can re-send from within their iCloud account.
To take full advantage of one of the most appealing features of Family Sharing you can add children to your account, even if they do not have an email address. This is possible by creating an Apple ID for the child. When you complete this step, their ID will automatically be added to your Family until they are at least 13 years old. Ask to Buy is turned on by default, which will require the organizer’s approval for purchases made through iTunes, iBooks and the App Store regardless if the purchase is free or not. However, to get started you need to provide parental consent and verify your payment information. Unfortunately, if you are using a debit card as you payment method in your iTunes account, Apple requires you to add a credit card to your iTunes account to verify that you are an adult.
After you set up Family Sharing, all purchases–including songs, apps, movies, books and TV shows will immediately be made available to everyone within your Family in your Purchased Tab–in addition to all future purchases. No need to worry about your young children having access to media that is not appropriate for their age group. When you set up their account you will be able to set all the usual parental controls that limit their exposure to what you want them to have access to by hiding individual items.
With the creation of a Family Sharing account, a Family Calendar is also created that everyone in the Family can have access to and make changed to as needed. You can use the calendar to send alerts to your Family members when appointments change as well as send each other reminders through the iOS app to send each other time and/or location reminders for events they are attending.
One additional feature of a Family Sharing Group is the ability to share your location with the rest of your Family automatically. Now, there is no need to contact your Family member, whether it be a child or adult to know that they maybe running late or just stuck in traffic. Simply access their location in Find My Friends, or send your location to another Family member within the iOS Messages app. Privacy an issue–no worries, you can temporarily stop sharing your location by disabling the Share My Location switch in iCloud. Of Course you can also use Find My iPhone to locate lost devices or pinpoint where Family members may be at any given time as well from a listing of available devices within your shared network.
Family Sharing looks to be a big hit for Families or anyone else who would like to share info with individuals they interact with on a routine basis. I know I am looking forward to implementing it within my own family. How about you?