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Is Apple failing to understand family users?
38 points by robomartin on Dec 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments
Several kids in our family got new iPod Touch's this xmas. The kids started to setup their iPods just while, we, the parents were having coffee and deserts. Then it happened. My kid comes up to me and says something like "I have all your contacts on my iPod". The other kids? Yup, they all got their parents contacts.

It seems iMessage is also able to send and receive messages from the child's device as if the parent had sent them.

Yes, you can go into Settings and disable what iCloud syncs. It's quite a list: Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Safari, Notes, Passbook, PhotoStream, Documents

Your kid can actually Delete your iCloud account. The iCloud settings will not allow you to clear out the password and user id. Maybe there are other issues as well. Don't know.

You could create a new account for each kid. At a mininum, this means that you have to re-purchase all the paid apps from every account.

I think Apple really needs to offer a family or group plan. I know they want to sell more devices and copies of the same apps. I get it. However, I think it is more important for parents to have total independent control of their kid's devices.

The first company to offer this is bound to have a really interesting differentiating factor on the table, one that would appeal to a lot of people. Does the W8 phone platform offer this? If so, MS needs to let people know. It could be important to a large group of customers.

Guest users represent another important use case. If you hand someone your iPhone they have access to nearly everything past the unlock screen. With iCloud, they'd have access to everything on your iPads and iPods. If you have to lend someone your iPad you really have to trust that they are not going to go look under your skirt. A multi-user setup with centrally-managed user accounts would allow you to setup a "Guest" account with restricted access to your data and apps, etc.

Will Apple every do this?

You need to setup the iPod/iPhone like this:

- During setup, create or sign into the kid's own iCloud account. This is separate from the iTunes account with purchases.

- After the device is setup and running, go into settings, and find the iTunes & App Stores section. Tap the Apple ID email address and sign out.

- Sign in, in this section, with the iTunes account that has all of the purchases. This will not sync anything, including contacts or email.

- Ensure all of the "Automatic Downloads" checkboxes are disabled, unless you want apps you download on your iPhone/iPad to automatically find their way onto your kid's iPod/iPhone.

- Go into the app store and to the purchases tab. Download the apps you've already purchased.

This allows you to purchase an app on any device, and redownload it on any other for free, without syncing contacts and iMessage across everything. This only shares the store account with all devices.

Because you've already setup the device, you may need to do a full reset and setup the device again the way I posted.

> During setup, create or sign into the kid's own iCloud account.

Depending on the age of your children, that may be a little tricky. Kids have to be 13 or older to have an apple account, as I discovered when I ran into this same problem earlier today.

You do not need an iCloud account to set up a device. I also don’t think it’s necessary for kids to be honest.

Like anyone follows the TOS of any service they've ever used :P

Create a second account for yourself?

Unless I'm really mistaken, a full reset is not required. Simply de-associate your iTunes account from kids' "iCloud" section of the Settings.app (but, leave your account in the "Store" section).

Now, they can't see/edit your data, but share your "Store" account. You can create new iCloud accounts for them to iMessage/FaceTime/Mail if they like, and it won't remove any of the apps from those devices.

My brain hurts...

It’s not complicated. The short version: Don’t set up your kids’ devices with your Apple account because that is going to sync everything. I think that is logical and obvious.

Apple helpfully also provides the option in the setting to sign up with a different account just for purchases. Then not all the stuff but just purchases will be synced.

I’m not sure how you can do it much easier. Suggestions?

Sure, this is a pain and it should be easier, but I’m not sure how? (I’m also sure that not many people sign in with their accounts on their kids’ devices. Seriously. That’s just a weird thing to do.)

Wouldn’t the most logical thing to do be to just not sign in with anything when you set up the device (I honestly don’t think kids need iCloud accounts for what they will be doing with an iPod touch) and then to try and find some way to sign up only for the store to get your purchases on the device?

The device should just natively support multiple profiles with a login system like newer versions of Android do and link everything to the profile and not the device. It would solve this issue as well as the many issues that arise when a family attempts to share an iPad.

There are lots of reasons Apple may not want to do this (it is difficult to get right if not baked in from the start, it may result is less iPad sales, etc), but I think it is clearly the right thing to do for proper UX.

How would that solve this issue? I don’t understand. This seems unrelated.

Do you honestly want to tell me that first creating an account for the kids and then creating an separate account (you do not plan to use) just to get purchased apps on there is in any way, shape or form a simpler solution?

Yes, Apple should support multiple accounts, but that’s unrelated to this problem.

It would make the entire setup process more logical. While it may result in slightly more steps at initial setup time, it would bring clarity to the process, so you wouldn't be in the situation you are now where clearly many people are Doing It Wrong because Doing It Wrong is the easy path.

Also, it makes it easier to undo the damage if you actually do go ahead and do it wrong, no need to do what amounts of a factory reset of the device to get to your desired state.

Usually the best UX is the one which has less steps for the user, but in some situations that can be taken to an extreme which removes important clarity of what is actually happening from the user, and IMO Apple's current device setup system suffers from that.

I completely disagree with you there. Multiple accounts are messy and add tons of complexity. They are anything but easy to understand.

I think Apple needs to add them, but I always envisioned them as a pro feature. Throwing normal users into a multiple account setup process seems like a very bad idea to me.

I’m also not sure how multiple account creation can prevent this specific failure in any way. Someone who is inclined to set up their kids’ devices with their own account will likely not doing anything different during the same step in a multiple account set up process.

It's a little easier to follow if you are going through the process and have something to look at. But yeah, it's needlessly confusing and complicated, but it does work. We have 4 iPhones and 2 iPads running this way.

Except now any time they want to download something, they'll need your password.

In the end, I just ended up giving my kids their own accounts across the board.

Well, I certainly want kids asking me for my password when the iTunes account is attached to my credit card. You can always switch back and forth between two iTunes accounts and use the apps on both. When you want to download a paid app, switch the account on the phone (using the same method as above), download the app, and switch back the account.

I agree, I don't want them using my card at all. I fund them with gift certificates instead.

I've tried the two iTunes accounts thing, and it became a big problem when syncing or downloading updates.

Some might argue that the less than obvious steps listed here are evidence of the OP's point.

Don't sign other peoples' device into your iCloud account.

What you want is to have each person have their own iCloud account, but then do all the iTunes store purchases under a separate account. This is obviously tricky if you already have a single iCloud account which has a lot of iTunes purchases. There is no way out of that.

If you're completely new to iOS, or are old enough to have an iTunes account that pre-dates iCloud and thus likely have a separate iCloud account, you are golden :)

Thinking about it, there is a possible way out if you don't have separate iTunes/iCloud accounts already.

If you're not using the email address on the iCloud account with all your iTunes purchases, simply sign yourself up to a new one and migrate your data over, then remove contacts/calendars/etc from the account with all the purchases and use that one for signing into the iTunes store on all the family's devices.

It's possible to use an account that's set up for both iCloud and iTunes for iTunes-only stuff on the kids' devices. The account should just not be used to sign into iCloud on those devices.

The kids started to setup their iPods just while, we, the parents were having coffee and deserts. Then it happened. My kid comes up to me and says something like "I have all your contacts on my iPod".

I think you are skipping the step where your kid asks you for your username and password, or logs in on your Mac using your account.

To your question: as others said: data syncing is through an iCloud account and app rights are also linked to an iCloud account, but the two need not be identical.

The process of getting there is a bit convoluted, but I do not see Apple streamline it, as it would make it too easy to pirate apps. If I had a paid app out there, I would not be happy if it typically got shared between, say, 3 users.

App Rights are linked to an Apple ID. An Apple ID could be:

* .Mac

* MobileMe

* iCloud


* Other email provided from a service other then the above.

> You could create a new account for each kid. At a mininum, this means that you have to re-purchase all the paid apps from every account.

That's what apple wants, and that's also what a lot of other companies try to do (steam ? kindle ?).

I'm interested in the outcome of this if one day someone takes it to court in the EU. I don't know for other countries but I know that here in France it was ruled several times with "old medias" (box games, books, music cd, ...) that when buying one it was your right to share it with your household (I'm simplifying a bit it, but basically you shouldn't have to buy a new copy for each person as you had the right to share one). I'm pretty sure whoever seriously tried to push for court would get a settlement offered pretty quick to avoid any judgment on the matter.

A couple of points that a lot of people are missing:

1) You can use a separate account for iCloud and iTunes purchases. The default is to configure them as the same, because it simplifies the setup process and matches use cases for most people.

2) The matter of licensing and multiple purchases isn't just an Apple concern, it's a general software licensing concern. You can't buy one copy of Microsoft Office and install it on all of your PCs either. You'll start getting activation errors after the first couple of activations. That's because the licensing is per-device, not per person. In general, people don't understand software licensing, but the fact that you can buy an app on the App Store one time for 99¢ and install it on multiple iOS devices is actually a huge improvement for end users. The trade-off is that you have to do so under a single iTunes account. This requires a minimal amount of additional configuration.

The original post is inaccurate. It is possible to share an iTunes (App Store) account without sharing an iCloud account.

Apparently you can do this with Home Sharing (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3819). Initially you will need to use the same Apple ID across all devices to download the apps you want to share. Once they have been downloaded and authorized, you can then sign in with a different Apple ID and use the 'shared' apps fine. I have not personally tried this, but there is plenty of evidence that this works from scanning a few Google search results.

> You could create a new account for each kid. At a mininum, this means that you have to re-purchase all the paid apps from every account.

Not necessarily, you could have separate iCloud accounts for each family member and one shared iTunes/App Store account. You can use a different account for iTunes and the App Store, so you don't have to change accounts all the time. At least that's what we do.

This simply isn't the right way to set up the devices, it should be obvious that if you sign into iCloud, its going to sync your iCloud data... One account corresponds to one person. Create an account for each person, and use that during the initial set up. For iTunes, you can have a shared account between all family members so you don't have to purchase things multiple times.

No. You failed to setup your iPods and iOS devices properly with separate iCloud accounts.

You can have a spectate iCloud account for each child. And if you want to redownload apps to their devise just log in with your iTunes account. iCloud and iTunes accounts do not need to be the same email.

This is not quite correct. While the setup should most probably be made easier and more apparent it is quite possible and even not that hard to setup properly those family devises.

The main idea is that you use common 'itunes' account to share your app purchases between the devices but you can have separate iCloud, iMessage and other account. in fact many of the services have per-service apple-id configuration.

A quite comprehensive overview can be found at http://gigaom.com/apple/how-many-apple-ids-should-your-famil...

I think it's possible to likely that Apple would implement something along the lines of sub-accounts for iOS, so that you could hand your iProduct to your kid without worrying that they could read your email, delete pictures, whatever - but it wouldn't be a real account, more like an alias with different settings, but still based on the same apple id.

It's less likely that apple will do a "family plan" - they seem to be pulling away from that model - there are no family plans on the osx app store as far as I know - on the other hand, the osx App Store is way less constrained than the iPhone store (you can install purchases in multiple macs) - I think Apples argument would be along the lines of "when most apps cost less than $10, it shouldn't be a problem to buy them 5 times if 5 people want them"

The suggestion to setup a separate iCloud account per kid is great, except that the TOS prohibits it for kids 12 and under:


With regards to the "proper" way to setup an iPod. I'd be willing to be that the vast majority of users have no clue whatsoever. I'd also be willing to bet that most users use the same login uid and pwd for both services, which means that when asked for credentials they automatically enter that info. Grandma has no clue as to the finer points of how to setup an iPod for the kids.

Aside from that, Apple gives no guidance whatsoever on "best practices". Users turn on the device and just enter what they are prompted to enter without any options to learn about the consequences of their choices. Given that, it is perfectly reasonable to expect most people to not even consider some of the posted ideas.

Most of the comments seem to have ignored the fundamental premise of my post:

Group account management and multi-user capabilities are sorely missing on iOS. There are a ton of use cases beyond the kids-with-ipods example. Yes, you can hack and patch your way around solving the specific issues I presented. We've already done it, of course. This is not a solution to the greater underlying issue.

Put plainly, I ought to be able to have full command of my "fleet" of iDevices as the administrator. This includes adding and removing users, enabling user access to different devices, selecting which apps are available to each user, selecting who can see what data (for example, photos) and managing guest accounts on the various devices.

It sounds complicated, but, well, either Apple is a great software/UI company or they are not. They ought to be able to make something like this usable.

Here's another use case for multiple accounts: Development. As far as I have been able to tell, there is no way to have a development and shipping version of your app on the same device. In other words, I want to be able to show and test my shipping app while, at the same time, also have my latest development build installed. I have to admit not having researched this too far, but it seems that it isn't possible. The only way is to actually call your development version something else. If you had multiuser capabilities you could have a "dev" user where all of your development builds and experiments could live. Your normal user would be nice and clean and only have the shipping version.

One account per device is way simpler than your "fleet management" could ever be for home use.

How so?

    - Purchase a new device.
    - Power it up.
    - It asks you if it should be setup individually or as part of a group.
    - You select group and enter the credentials.
    - It then navigates you through a set of sensible startup options to configure the device's primary user
    - Anything else you do online or through a dedicated group management app
In the case of getting an iPod for a kid, you power the thing up, choose group, enter her name, check off the allowed apps from a list, enable other options (can they make purchases?) and you are pretty much done. Hand it to the kid and walk away. You can refine other setup items at a later time.

I don't want my five year old to have an Apple ID or iCloud account. I just want her to have access to a dozen apps and that's it.

You assume that you have a "group" set up in some other machine, and it needs to be powered up - or if this happens via the internet you need some kind of identification beforehand. If the kid is going to be able to make purchases, it will need a password (you don't want their friends or anyone else spending their credits). And all of this requires a special app or website with a management interface.

My point is that this would create a whole new set of tools that you'd need to grasp. For comparison, steps for currently activating an independent device:

    - Purchase.
    - Power up.
    - Choose locale/etc settings.
    - Create new apple ID.
    - Enter your credentials in App Store.
    - Download apps.
Hand it to the kid and walk away. None of this requires fumbling with settings on another machine. If you need to change settings, grab the iPod, change the settings.

You do not have to re purchase apps for new accounts, you just need to use itunes to transfer/share apps.


This seems to be a way around having to use itunes http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57467103-285/how-to-shar...

>You could create a new account for each kid. At a mininum, this means that you have to re-purchase all the paid apps from every account.

This is what Apple wants.

No, this is not what Apple wants. They make (practically) no money from people buying more apps.

It’s just a bad user experience they haven’t fixed (hopefully yet). Apple’s main goal is and will always be selling more devices. That’s how they make money. If they do sell more devices (as was the case here) it is not in their best interest to make you jump through hoops.

You fail to understand at a fundamental level what kind of company Apple is.

(By the way, this is not what Apple wants for the simple reason that you already don’t have to repurchase anything. You can put apps on any and all devices you control, the problem is just that you have to transfer them using iTunes – and that’s a train-wreck Apple seems to be unaware of. But it is possible.)

Having one account = one person = one device is clearly lucrative for Apple.

Again: That was not the issue here. You are lumping another (very real) issue together with the issue discussed in the post.

I'm sure that's correct, but in this case OP is mistaken. He failed to setup those new iPods correctly - You can use different account for iMessage, Mail and App Store. He must enter his own account in the App Store section of those new Touches and leave iMessage and Main empty (or, create new account for his/her children).

Now, those kids can't see his/her Mail and iMessages, and even if try to buy something from the App Store they can't (they need the parent's password).

"Deleting" an iCloud account only removes it from the phone, it doesn't delete the account itself. It's just poorly worded in the UI.

Why isn't apple making it more clear that it's supposed to be one account per person? A lot of us technical users are already aware of that, but its clearly a detail a lot of people miss. Couldn't apple put a slip in the box that says "make a new account for your kids"?

You're absolutely right, I agree. But I thought something like that, what if you had another account only for use with iCloud etc. and an account for purchases and to setup other iDevices?

well you could create an iCloud account for your kid and only add your account to apple store section.

Android has the features you're looking for.

It doesn't have the main feature of "DAD I WANTED AN IPOD TOUCH" unfortunately.

In which case dad needs to learn the important 'Not be a pushover' feature and stand up to his own kids.

Specifically there is the Galaxy Player (http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-YP-G1CWY-XAA-4-Inch-Galaxy/dp/...). I had to look it up as I was unaware of any comparable device. The price is comparable to the IPod Touch as well.

Clearly Steve Jobs understood the customer unlike anyone at Apple currently does.

You really can't blame apple for you just being dumb.

Apple did the right thing, they signed in with your username and password and apple sync'd to the new device.

The only missing family feature is multiple accounts on an iPad, but the problem you're having is that you shouldn't have given your children your apple id to set up their devices with...

Like everyone else is telling you, setup your children's devices with their own iCloud accounts.

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