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If you're not using Apple Family Sharing, you're wasting money

How a feature built into nearly every iOS and Mac device can save you cash.

apple-family-sharing

Family Sharing is an Apple feature not nearly enough people are using. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

When Apple's Family Sharing feature launched with iOS 8, it solved a major problem: Giving family members access to apps that one of them already paid for, without having to buy it again just for a spouse or child to use it. Before Family Sharing emerged, you'd have to shared your Apple ID password with family members, which is both inconvenient and insecure. At the time, sharing an Apple ID password was the only way to log into the App Store and iTunes to access another user's purchase history, so you could download paid apps without, well, paying.

Now, Family Sharing has evolved into a feature for sharing Apple Music subscriptions and iCloud storage plans, without making you double or triple spend on apps, and without invalidating the security of your password by passing it around. Family Sharing even lets you help find a lost device thanks to integrated location sharing.

Family Sharing isn't complicated to set up, taking only a few minutes by each member of the group. Before you create a family sharing group, make sure you know who the family organizer is -- they are responsible for setting up the group and sending out invites. 

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Family Sharing requirements and limitations

  • All family members will need to have an iOS device running iOS 8 or newer, or a Mac running OS X Yosemite or newer.
  • Of course, you'll need an Apple ID and iCloud account. 
  • Family Sharing groups are limited to six members.
  • If purchase sharing is enabled, the family organizer's payment method will be used to pay for all purchases.

What's shared between members?

With Family Sharing enabled, you have the option to share (or not share) the following:

  • iTunes and App Store purchases
  • Apple Music subscription
  • iCloud Storage
  • Location sharing (currently via Find My iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon) and Find My Friends, but will change to Find My app with iOS 13.)
  • Screen Time
  • Apple News+

Additionally, a Reminders list and a Calendar for your family group is created automatically. There's also a "Family" album created and shared between in the group in the Photos app.

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The family organizer will need to set up and send out invites for Family Sharing. 

Apple, Inc.

Start a family group

After you've decided who in your family is going to be the organizer of your group, that persons will need to set up Family Sharing and send out invites.

On an iPhone, iPod Touch ($200 at Walmart) or iPad ($249 at Walmart), open the Settings app, tap on your name and then Set Up Family Sharing

On a Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud and click on the Set Up Family button.

Your device will walk you through the rest of the process, asking you to pick what you want to share with family members. Once you've enabled everything you want to share, you can begin sending invites to family members.

After you join a family group

You can opt in or out of most of the shared categories, save for Apple Music and iCloud storage. Those two categories are left up to the family organizer to control. 

On an iOS device, go to Settings > tap on your name > Family Sharing and look through the list of shared features. Tap on a category to view how what controls you have available to you, and then make adjustments as needed. 

Whenever you download an app that's already been purchased by a family member, you'll see a prompt letting you know that you won't be charged for the app. 

Alternatively, you can browse a family member's purchase history by opening the App Store tapping on your profile icon followed by Purchased and then selecting a family member's name.

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You don't have to share your location or purchase history with your family, but it's probably the right thing to do. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

What happens when you leave a Family Sharing group?

You can leave or be removed from a Family Sharing group at any time. Once you are no longer part of that group, you lose access to any apps, moves, music, books and services purchased by another family member. For example, if you installed an app that was purchased by someone else in the group, the app will remain installed on your device, but you won't be able to use it until you pay for it yourself.

Your purchase history will stop being shared with the family group, as will your location, and the shared Reminders, Calendar, and Photos features will stop working. You can join another family group, or start your own, immediately after leaving a group.

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