Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Converting from shared store ID to Family Sharing - and what didn't work

Maybe this worked. Or not. See update.

Our five family members have long shared one store Apple ID. We’ve done this before there was Family Sharing. I put off switching to Family Sharing as I figured it would take Apple 3-4 years to get it working.

With iOS 11.3 Apple broke a longstanding purchase behavior. My son’s iPhone no longer required a password for purchases, only his fingerprint. There might be a fix, but I decided instead to move him to Family Sharing. (There is a fix, see below.)

The story went something like this [1]:

  • I have an iCloud Apple ID ( and a different Store Apple ID ( — because I’m old. He has an iCloud Apple ID ( and my store Apple ID.
  • In my iCloud Apple ID he is a family member. 
  • I removed my Store Apple ID from his phone and added his iCloud Apple ID.
  • I sent $15 to his iCloud Apple ID from my App Store account.

So far he still can access our movies and apps. Now he will make his own purchases that will be associated with his Apple ID. When he runs through his $15 he’ll give me cash and I’ll send more money. Eventually I do need to get a debit or managed credit card on his phone but we’ll start with cash. Alas, it doesn’t work that way. See update.

After the change I checked the (this is broken) two places Apple currently tracks devices associated with an Apple ID

  • showed 7 devices including an old iPhone my son used to have that I’d previously removed. This also showed on his iPhone Apple ID view. I removed it from both places and it has not returned.
  • iTunes Manage Devices showed 8 devices, but not my son’s current iPhone. This, in contrast to past testing, is correct while the list is incomplete. It’s interesting that moving my son’s phone to Family Sharing means I’m no longer at my 10 item device limit (if that rule still applies!)

- fn -

[1] He is, incidentally, a special needs adult. I’d have liked to be able to use Apple Ask to Buy for him but that’s not available for an adult. (I wish Apple considered special needs as a disability — they have great support for visual and auditory needs, but not for cognitive.)

Update 4/19/2018

  • Seeing purchase histories is really clunky. You can see what apps a family member has purchased by launching App, logging out and then logging in as the family member. To see both tunes and apps you go to Apps & iTunes in Settings (yeah, this is crazy). You have to log in as the family member — I got the ancient iOS 1.0 un/pw dialog that shows up when you get to a part of iOS that desperately needs a replacement. It did work, but seriously ugly.

Update 4/20/2018

  • Subscriptions aren’t Family shareable. So that’s a significant bummer; several of his apps are subscription based. All is not lost though, At presented my Store Apple ID username and accepted the password. In-App purchases aren’t Family shareable either — which is bad news for Omni Group. Apple has a list of what’s not shared.

Update 4/28/2018 - what I wish I’d known

My son ran up a $70 bill on a $15 credit — all on my account — because “Any time a family member makes a new purchase, it’s billed directly to the family organizer’s account”. It doesn’t work the way I thought it did. If a family member is under 18 you can activate Ask to Buy, but not for someone over 18.

Family sharing is clearly designed to only work for children. It’s a poor match for a couple that wants to keep separate finances and it’s unsuited to adult children.

I found that the 11.3 update bug didn’t truly break the ability to require an iCloud password for purchases. It only bypassed the requirement to enter the iCloud password to enable Touch ID. I went into Touch ID & Passcode and turned off “USE TOUCH ID FOR … iTunes & App Store”. 

He doesn’t know his iCloud password (so he can’t lose it in a phishing attack!), so this meant he again needed us to enter a password into his iPhone to make purchases. Obviously, Ask to Buy would be far better. If Apple wanted to support users with cognitive disabilities …well, this blog accepts comments. I’d be glad to advise.

We didn’t want to have to memorize another password, so I changed his iCloud password to match my App Store & iTunes password.

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