The iTunes Store Family Sharing Debacle

With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple introduced Family Sharing, a way to allow multiple users in a family to share the same iTunes Store account. This way, they can easily get access to all the music, movies, TV shows and apps that anyone in the family buys.

Theoretically. In practice, it’s not so smooth.

Here’s how Apple says it works:

“Family Sharing makes it easy for up to six people in your family to share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases without sharing accounts. Pay for family purchases with the same credit card and approve kids’ spending right from a parent’s device. And share photos, a family calendar, and more to help keep everyone connected.”

Family sharing

I have not even tried setting up Family Sharing, even for testing, because of the way it works. Once a device is added to a family group, your device may be in limbo. As Apple says, “After you leave a family, you can join or set up a new one. However you can only switch to a different family group once per year.”

But another problem is that not all content can be shared, notably, “Apps that aren’t shareable.”

David Chartier has pointed this out, especially as far as free apps are concerned. He points out that there are issues downloading apps that are shared, but even more so with apps that don’t allow sharing. Because this feature is an opt-in feature for developers. Frankly, if the feature doesn’t work for all the content of a given type, it’s not worth using. Imagine if iTunes Match only worked with music from certain record labels; that’s what’s happening here with apps.

David Sparks is quitting family sharing. He highlights the fact that app developers must opt in, that in-app purchases are not included, and that iTunes Match doesn’t get shared. He concludes:

“Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better. Now I am about to sit down at the dinner table to figure out which 10 of our devices get the full benefit of our shared account. Let the negotiations begin.”

And the same is the case for Jason Snell, who says ” Family Sharing is a good idea, but between the limitations and the bugs, it’s making my family agitate for a return to sharing a single Apple ID.”

Yet again, Apple comes up with a good idea, but has a very poor implementation. It reminds me of iTunes Match, which still has the same problems (not matching tracks, not updating tracks and playlists, and a limited number of tracks) several years after it was introduced. I don’t know why Apple is so incompetent at making things like this work, but it doesn’t tempt me at all to try any new features with so many hoops to jump through.

16 thoughts on “The iTunes Store Family Sharing Debacle

  1. Why does Apple suck so bad at cloud services? It started with eWorld and hasn’t stopped. I’ve never understood how a company so dedicated to quality in other areas can so consistently fail to get online services right.

  2. Why does Apple suck so bad at cloud services? It started with eWorld and hasn’t stopped. I’ve never understood how a company so dedicated to quality in other areas can so consistently fail to get online services right.

  3. I believe Apple is guilty of chasing the mass market, rolling out major new versions of their software once a year. What is lost with that approach is steady, incremental improvements and quality control. They are always chasing that “next big thing”, and a trustable user experience is the victim of that approach.

  4. I believe Apple is guilty of chasing the mass market, rolling out major new versions of their software once a year. What is lost with that approach is steady, incremental improvements and quality control. They are always chasing that “next big thing”, and a trustable user experience is the victim of that approach.

  5. My wife was really pissed when she tried to get an app that IS marked as being allowed for Family Sharing, but the App Store said she couldn’t install it on her device. AT ALL. We had to jump through hoops to reset things by logging her out of her account and back in. After several different attempts, we got it to work. I can only imagine this is going to cause more pain in the future. Serves me right for trusting that Apple would have gotten this right. I’ve lost an sense that I have control over what music is where since I decided to let iTunes Match handle my music library. I’ve just resigned myself to listening to whatever music it deems available on any given device.

  6. My wife was really pissed when she tried to get an app that IS marked as being allowed for Family Sharing, but the App Store said she couldn’t install it on her device. AT ALL. We had to jump through hoops to reset things by logging her out of her account and back in. After several different attempts, we got it to work. I can only imagine this is going to cause more pain in the future. Serves me right for trusting that Apple would have gotten this right. I’ve lost an sense that I have control over what music is where since I decided to let iTunes Match handle my music library. I’ve just resigned myself to listening to whatever music it deems available on any given device.

  7. WOW, Apple really sucks. Its Doomed. Now I know why everyone in the world is going Android.

    And Apple has not even created anti-gravity or teleportation yet. What is just so wrong with them, everyone in the movies does it. Its really easy. Shame on Apple.

    Now I understand why other companies make stuff that is not perfect, but this is Apple, and they totally understand magic. so they should just shut the doors and turn the key over to Bill Gates cause the Zune was perfect. Everybody in the whole world just loved it. And PlaysforSure was another wonderful thing that everyone uses, even today.

    Apple, wake up and smell the… er…… well…. actually my Apple stuff works pretty much great most of the time. And when I buy an app that does not work great, I try not to blame Apple for a developers issues. Just saying.

    • The Zune? That’s comparing Apples to lemons. No one here is disputing that Apple is great at hardware, and it was the excellence of the Ipod, iPhone, and iPad that drew people to the ecosystem. The issue is that the software/cloud products are getting worse with each new version/feature. We are not talking about third-party apps; we are talking about Apple iMatch, Family Sharing, Apple Music, and the iOS. These are less than overwhelming successes. Buried in your sarcasm is a good point: Just because Apple is great at hardware (made by Samsung, etc.) does not mean that this expertise translates.

  8. WOW, Apple really sucks. Its Doomed. Now I know why everyone in the world is going Android.

    And Apple has not even created anti-gravity or teleportation yet. What is just so wrong with them, everyone in the movies does it. Its really easy. Shame on Apple.

    Now I understand why other companies make stuff that is not perfect, but this is Apple, and they totally understand magic. so they should just shut the doors and turn the key over to Bill Gates cause the Zune was perfect. Everybody in the whole world just loved it. And PlaysforSure was another wonderful thing that everyone uses, even today.

    Apple, wake up and smell the… er…… well…. actually my Apple stuff works pretty much great most of the time. And when I buy an app that does not work great, I try not to blame Apple for a developers issues. Just saying.

    • The Zune? That’s comparing Apples to lemons. No one here is disputing that Apple is great at hardware, and it was the excellence of the Ipod, iPhone, and iPad that drew people to the ecosystem. The issue is that the software/cloud products are getting worse with each new version/feature. We are not talking about third-party apps; we are talking about Apple iMatch, Family Sharing, Apple Music, and the iOS. These are less than overwhelming successes. Buried in your sarcasm is a good point: Just because Apple is great at hardware (made by Samsung, etc.) does not mean that this expertise translates.

  9. I wish Family Sharing worked but this article has convinced me not to try yet, if ever.

    A year before Family Sharing, I got frustrated by App Store hoops as well. I came up with an idea that’s worked ok so far: Each family member gets their own Apple ID for their devices, but I set up an “admin” gmail account to serve as the overall Apple ID. Each family member’s ID works on their device for iCloud and Game Center. And the “admin” account is the iTunes sign-in, whose password only my wife and I know. It isn’t used by anyone for any purpose than to buy Apps. There’s no limit to the amount of devices or Apps we can share. I hoped this is what Failt Share would be, but sounds like not.

    • That is a really good workaround, seadawg76. It’s what I had hoped would be Family Sharing in its implementation…a group ID for which 6 people share their various media and app purchases.

      I have no problem w/ Apple limiting this to once a year account changes, or that it requires a single credit card for payments; this helps avoid mass pirating. But a central Apple (Family) ID, or your case the gmail ID, would be the perfect manner in which to make the sharing almost seamless yet preserve the security of legit purchases.

  10. I wish Family Sharing worked but this article has convinced me not to try yet, if ever.

    A year before Family Sharing, I got frustrated by App Store hoops as well. I came up with an idea that’s worked ok so far: Each family member gets their own Apple ID for their devices, but I set up an “admin” gmail account to serve as the overall Apple ID. Each family member’s ID works on their device for iCloud and Game Center. And the “admin” account is the iTunes sign-in, whose password only my wife and I know. It isn’t used by anyone for any purpose than to buy Apps. There’s no limit to the amount of devices or Apps we can share. I hoped this is what Failt Share would be, but sounds like not.

    • That is a really good workaround, seadawg76. It’s what I had hoped would be Family Sharing in its implementation…a group ID for which 6 people share their various media and app purchases.

      I have no problem w/ Apple limiting this to once a year account changes, or that it requires a single credit card for payments; this helps avoid mass pirating. But a central Apple (Family) ID, or your case the gmail ID, would be the perfect manner in which to make the sharing almost seamless yet preserve the security of legit purchases.

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