Family Sharing is a new feature introduced alongside iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. With Family Sharing you can share apps, music, movies, books and more with all members of your family.
Once you've set up Family Sharing, you no longer have to buy items individually. When one person in the family buys an app, book or content from the iTunes Store, it is immediately available to all other members of the family to download for free. (Usually. App developers/content makers need to activate Family Sharing for their digital media. If they don't, you won't be able to share it.)
Up to six people can use Family Sharing, and you all pay on the same credit card, so Family Sharing is ideal for families that want to combine their purchases. It is also possible to set limits for younger family members, so when a child asks to buy an app (or other item from the iTunes or App Store) an alert appear on an adult's phone. If you have this option activated, the youngster won't be able to make the purchase until and unless the family administrator agrees to it.
There are other benefits to turning on Family Sharing too. It integrates with other Apple services, such as iCloud and Find My Friends. With Family Sharing set up you get a group calendar and reminders lists for your family, so you can organise events together. And Find My Friends can be used to share the location of your family members, making it easier than ever to meet up. You can also all contribute to a shared family photo album, with all the photos appearing up to date on everybody's device.
How to set up Family Sharing on an iPad or iPhone
The easiest way to set up Family Sharing is probably on an iPad or iPhone.
Open the Settings app and scrolldown to the iCloud section. Check that the correct Apple ID is displayed at the top - the Apple ID from which you wish to administrate Family Sharing - and then tap on 'Set Up Family Sharing...'
You'll now see a series of windows that you breeze through pretty quickly, but if you're interested, they briefly describe the features you'll be able to use with Family Sharing, and contain a few warnings about what exactly you're letting yourself in for - the things you'll be paying for, primarily. Tap Get Started on the first screen, and then Continue on the second and third ones.
The fourth screen, with the title 'Payment method', is very important. This shows the final four digits of the credit/debit card associated with the Apple ID you're using. This is the card that will be debited whenever someone who's part of the family group buys an app, a song, a film or whatever from Apple. Make sure it's the right one before tapping Continue a third time.
As well as sharing apps and other digital content, Family Sharing allows you to share location data with your family. On the next screen you decide whether your own location data will be shared with other family members; when they each accept your invitation to join the family, they will in turn choose whether to share their location data. (At this point you may wish to give firm instructions as to which option they choose!)
Select Share Your Location or Not Now.
And that's it: your family unit is set up. But for the time being it's a family of one. Now you need to add further family members.
From the main iCloud screen in Settings, tap Family, then Add Family Member. You can then add type in the email address of your family member (or, if they are in your contacts list, just start typing their name and then select the right person when they appear).
The 'Ask to Buy' screen allows you to stipulate whether the family member will need to get permission from your whenever they buy an app or piece of digital content. In most cases you will wish to select 'Ask Permission for Purchases', although might let your spouse have free rein on the credit card. Tap Next.
Now decide how you wish to bring the family member into the fold - either sending an invitation or creating a password that they can enter right away. (Our experience suggests that the invitation only takes about 20 seconds to arrive, so is a convenient option too, but if you're away from internet access it might not be suitable.)
And that's pretty much it. The family member gets their invitation (or enters their password), accepts (or declines), then simply selects whether to share location data. And you're ready to go with Family Sharing.
How to set up Family Sharing in Mac OS X
You can also set up Family Sharing via a Mac - again, it's pretty simple, but the only complication is that the Mac needs to be running Yosemited. Here is how to set up Family Sharing for all the members of your family on a Mac.
- Open System Preferences > iCloud. (Tap Sign In and enter your Apple ID and Password).
- Click on Set Up Family.
- Click on Continue and Continue again.
- A window will show the account that you will use to share purchases from. Double-check that it is your main Apple ID account and click Continue.
- The Purchases Initiated By Your Family window will show which card is being used for payments. Click Continue.
- Click the tick box next to I Agree To The iTunes Store terms and conditions window and click Agree.
- If you want to use Find My Friends to locate your family, tick the Share Your Location option and Continue (otherwise click Not Now and Continue).
Family Sharing is now set up on your Mac. The next step is to add members to it.
How to add family members to Family Sharing
Now that you have set up Family Sharing in Mac OS X, it is time to add a family member. Here is how to add people to your family:
- Open System Preferences > iCloud and click on Manage Family.
- Click Add Family Member.
- Enter the email address for the family member and click Continue.
- Confirm you are the Family Organizer by entering the three digit CVV security code from the payment card associated with your account. Click Continue.
- Enter your Apple ID password and click Continue.
The person who you sent an email to will receive an email invitation in Mail and Alert in iCloud on their iOS devices. Here is how they accept the invitation
- Open Settings on an iOS device.
- Tap iCloud > Invitations.
- Tap on the Accept button.
- Tap Confirm and Continue.
- Tap Agree on the terms and conditions and Agree in the Alert window.
- Tap Share your Location to use Find My Friends (or Not Right Now).
You are now part of a shared family, and any purchases you make are charged to the family organizer, and can be shared with both members of the family.
Who pays for content in Family Sharing?
It's important to note that the person who sets up Family Sharing is the Organizer. This is the person in charge, and they pay for all purchases. So if you set up Family Sharing for your partner and family members, your card is charged for all purchases.
There is also no way for other family members to pay for Family Sharing content. Only the person who originally set up Family Sharing can pay. Other family members can leave Family Sharing if they want to pay for an app, or music, but they can only do so twice a year. So make sure you are happy to be paying for all content in Family Sharing when you set it up.