How to share iTunes content with your family right now

ios8 familysharing

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Reader Frank Stillman has a question related to a feature recently announced by Apple. He writes:

I’m interested in Apple’s announcement of the Family Sharing plan, where you can share iTunes media with other people in your family. Is there any way my family and I can do something like that now?

[Insert sounds of hesitation here] Well, sort of. A common misconception is that you can use a single iCloud account per device for everything that device does. For example, once you configure an iCloud account within Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, that account will be tied to not only your email account but also purchases from the iTunes and iBooks stores. This isn’t the case. Your iCloud account and iTunes/App Store/iBookstore account can be different (though, for many people, they're often the same thing).

On a device running iOS 7 tap Settings and then tap iTunes & App Store. At the top of the resulting screen you’ll see an entry for your Apple ID. But that’s an active entry, meaning that you can interact with it. You can, for example, remove it by tapping on it and then tapping Sign Out. Doing this doesn’t cause the apps or media obtained with this ID to disappear or stop working. However, if you wish to update apps on the device tied to this ID, you’ll have to enter the pasword associated with it when updating.

Let’s get to specifics. Right now, today, this instant you can create an Apple ID and link it to a credit card. You can then use that ID with up to 10 devices, including computers. (You can’t use the ID with more than five computers, however.) So, when Mom purchases the Residents’ Not Available (which, I assure you, is available), any other device using that Apple ID—and I do mean your iPod touch, Little JoJo—can also download the album. This works not only with music but also ebooks, videos, and apps.

And why would I make hesitation sounds when this sounds pretty darned close to Family Sharing? Although I haven’t had the opportunity to test the feature (and if I did, I couldn’t write about it) I imagine that Apple will do everything it can to make a double-identity—where you have content that you own as well as family-owned content—more transparent. For example, you won’t be prompted for a load of information simply because you want to update an app that you purchased before the existence of Family Sharing.

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