I’ve never been a Family Sharing user, Apple’s feature that allows families to share iCloud account access for things like photos and music on both iOS and Mac. But I recently decided to upgrade my Apple Music account to a family plan to take advantage of the discount as I encourage family members and friends to try out the service; that required me to activate the Family Sharing feature that Apple uses to manage family plans for Apple Music.
While you can choose to ignore most of the features of Family Sharing — photos, calendars, and reminders can be accessed through shared folders in their respective apps — once it’s activated, there aren’t any granular settings for each member to disable sharing on a per-feature/app basis. But the even bigger issue is that all purchases from any Apple ID in the family go to a single credit card of the admin (or parent) of the group. In other words, I’m now paying for every app, song, book, or anything else that my family group members purchase from Apple on top of the subscription costs for Apple Music.
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The rest of Family Sharing features — like shared photos, calendars, and reminders — are all or nothing. If you’re an admin or individual in a Family Sharing setup, you can’t opt out of any one feature or choose to delete, for instance, the shared calendar or reminders list from within those apps.
Those things are a little easier to ignore than the payments situation, but my overall experience with my Apple Music plan highlighted how Family Sharing could desperately use some granular controls on an individual basis.
It’s probably not as big of a deal if you’re a traditional family setup where parents want to moderate their kids’ accounts and therefore would likely want to be the one paying for and approving purchases made. But it’s a disaster in a non-traditional setup, like me and my adult siblings wanting to share an Apple Music account and nothing else — I don’t want to pay for my adult’s brother and sister’s app and iTunes purchases, or have to deal with having to send them the receipts and have them transfer me money for each purchase they make. Apple already has an option to share your iTunes, App Store, and iBooks content with your family, but it doesn’t relate to billing at all.
So it’d be nice to have the ability to share, at the very least, an Apple Music subscription while still maintaining the ability to individually pay for our own purchases otherwise. Or perhaps just allow us to have an Apple Music subscription without being tied to Family Sharing at all. But the problem doesn’t just end with purchases for iTunes, and Apple could really improve Family Sharing overall with some more granular controls for individuals within a family…
For example, iCloud storage upgrades are another thing tied to a Family Sharing group. While you may or may not want to pay for your entire families storage upgrades, there are also many that would like to share storage through a family setup. Currently, the admin of the family gets billed, while everyone’s iCloud storage remains separate.
And there are other features not related to purchases that I’d like to see with an option to ungroup and have managed individually — the mandatory stuff like calendars and reminders lists that you can’t currently remove. As Family Sharing continues to add in more features like the addition of Apple Music subscriptions, I think it’s necessary for Apple to begin adding more individual support for features and payments.