iOS 5 and iCloud — Multiple Devices, Same Family
Note: This post was written a long time ago and with the release of iOS 6 and newer phones (like the iPhone 5) some of the information may be out-of-date, though it may still be useful generally. Use at your own risk.
With the new iPhone 4S out, and along with that iOS 5 and iCloud, there are a lot of cool new features to play with on Apple devices. In particular, Siri, plus the ability to write text messages and other text into any of your applications by voice are pretty cool features of the new 4S. However, when I first upgraded my phone to iOS 5, I felt a little lost as I tried to familiarize myself with how iCloud really worked and the benefits it would provide.
In short, iCloud stores all of the information from your phone (contacts, calendar, music, app data, etc.) somewhere securely inside Apple’s datacenter, essentially eliminating the need to keep syncing your phone to your computer to back everything up. It is actually quite convenient once you get used to it.
But even after getting used to it, there was another key issue that still needed to be solved — how to do this with multiple phones/devices in the same family. Like most people, my wife and I share an Apple ID so that the two of us don’t have to pay for apps separately, which we shouldn’t have to do since we are in the same family. As we upgraded our phones, we were told that with iCloud we really should start using two separate Apple IDs so that the iCloud wouldn’t get all of our information (contacts, calendars, etc.) all mixed up. So, when I got home, I started researching.
It turns out that Apple has done a very good job of keeping multi-device compatibility in mind as they designed iCloud. So, here is what I have found to be the best way for multiple people in the same household to continue to share app purchases, while keeping their data in the iCloud separate.
The way apple has handled this is by allowing you to use separate log-ins for various applications on your phone. For example, if you go into your phone’s “Settings” you will see that “iCloud” and “Store” are two separate sections that allow two separate logins. Anyways, here is how we have our two phones set up:
On this phone, everywhere there is a login, it is using our family’s primary Apple ID (i.e. the iCloud login on this phone is just using our Apple ID). Here are just a few of the places where this login is provided:
- “Settings” -> “iCloud”
- “Settings” -> “Store”
- “Settings” -> “Messages” -> “Receive At”
- “Find My Friends” app
- And more…
Now on this phone, log into “Settings” -> “Store” with the same Apple ID as the first phone, however, for EVERYTHING ELSE, use your separate iCloud ID (you can create this on the phone directly, or just go to icloud.com and set it up there). What this does, is still give you full access to all of the apps and music purchased on the primary Apple ID account, however, all of your iCloud, iMessage, contacts, calendar and app data, etc. will all be different. Keep in mind that all of these other settings and apps tend to use “Apple ID” when referencing your login, but you can still go ahead and use your iCloud ID and password for those instead.
It’s worked like a charm for us so far. I’m just glad that Apple thought of this beforehand and didn’t require us to go through all kinds of workarounds to make this happen. Also, remember to go into “Settings” -> “iCloud” for each device and set to “ON” all of the items you want sync’d to iCloud and also turn on your “Storage & Backup” on that same settings screen.
A few of other tips before I close:
- Most people within the same household will still want to have some sort of shared calendar. Even with separate iCloud accounts, it’s still easy to do. Just sign-in to icloud.com under the primary account, create a calendar and hit the icon to share that calendar, then enter the information for the other iCloud accounts in your household. As you and they add, remove and update appointments in that particular calendar, it will be reflected on all devices. Overall, I’m quite impressed with the services through iCloud and icloud.com so far. So much that I removed Google mobile sync from my phone completely and now just manage my contacts and calendar completely through iCloud. While I don’t ever see myself getting rid of Gmail for mail, it was just much more streamlined for me to manage everything else through iCloud instead of through Google.
- Remember to turn off “Automatic Downloads” in “Settings” -> “Store” unless you want apps, music and books purchased on your family’s other devices to show up automatically on your own.
- As for your apps, I imagine that you should still be able to connect your phone to your computer to get access to all of the apps that you have purchased (though I haven’t tried it yet since I started using iCloud). However, what we’ve just done so far (and by so doing have truly eliminated the need to connect our phones to any computer) is just go into the App Store, hit “Updates” and then hit “Purchased” to see and download all apps that you have previously purchased on the master Apple ID.
- As for music, I imagine to get access to my non-Apple song collection, I would still have to connect my phone to my computer to manage my playlists and put the music on each phone. However, Apple also offers an iTunes Match service, which (for an annual fee) will try to match up your music library’s songs and download the equivalent Apple version of that song, and make those songs available through iCloud. I haven’t tried either of these yet since upgrading, but would be interested in hearing your experiences with them.
- Remember that your Apple music and apps, etc. don’t count towards your 5GB of iCloud storage, so unless you have a lot of non-Apple music, photos and other data, most people will be just fine with the free 5GB and not have to purchase extra storage from Apple. To see how much storage you are using, go to “Settings” -> “iCloud” -> “Storage & Backup” -> “Manage Storage” and click your device’s name to see detailed information on what your storage space is being used for. For me, it was mostly being used by audio books, photos in my camera roll and app data.
- One last cool feature of iOS 5 and iCloud. The backup to iCloud will only run once per day and only (unless you tell it otherwise) when your phone is locked, plugged-in and connected to WiFi. So you can plug your phone in at night and know that while you are sleeping, your phone’s data is being backed-up.
I hope this helps many of you who are sharing a single Apple ID in your household. If you have any other tips on how to do that, or other cool features you want to mention about iOS 5 or the new iPhone 4S, please leave them in the comments.