A new rumor over the weekend claimed Apple TV is gaining a new multi-user feature with tvOS 11 later this year. Account switching makes a lot of sense for a shared device like the Apple TV, but users have wanted this feature on iOS for a while too. Would Apple ship account switching with tvOS and exclude the feature from iOS?
While the rumor that tvOS 11 will add account switching to Apple TV is unverified at this point, it’s a logical feature addition and hardly farfetched.
Right now each Apple TV is tied to a specific Apple ID for Apple Music and Photos. iTunes Movies and TV Shows support accessing shared purchases through Family Sharing, but even that feature requires a lot of navigation.
The rumored account switching feature would allow different users to access their own Apple Music libraries, iCloud Photo Libraries, and maybe even Home screen layouts. I could see this potential feature working with Apple’s new TV app and even iCloud game saves eventually.
But would Apple really ship tvOS 11 with account switching and not make the feature for iOS 11 too? The Mac has had account switching for ages; the feature could further close the gap between macOS and iOS.
Apple could resist bringing account switching to iOS because iPhones and iPads are ‘personal’ devices and not shared boxes like the Apple TV, but you could argue every computer above the Apple Watch can be shared in some environment.
I would love to have a family iPad to share around the house between me, my wife, and my kid. That could certainly hurt device sales versus one device per person, but the flexibility could encourage device sales in families that otherwise wouldn’t consider purchasing an iPad. I imagine this would work itself out.
It’s harder to make a case for account switching on iPhone, but iOS is certainly in need of a guest mode. Currently you can’t easily share your iPhone with someone who needs to make a phone call or do a quick Google search without giving them full access.
You could argue that storage has been a constraint on iOS that hasn’t been a problem on the Mac, but new iPhones and iPads ship with 32GB (like Apple TV) to 256GB so that’s no longer a major issue. Streaming is also popular now for music, photo, and video access.
Apple has also been changing its playbook recently when it comes to projects like the iPad (see the new $329 model for example) so the argument internally against shared accounts a few years ago may not hold up anymore.
Even if tvOS 11 doesn’t ship with a new account switching feature, we’ve certainly been teased by the multi-user feature on Apple’s Classroom app for iPad.
Even on iPhone, the new security and account management section in the Settings app on iOS 10.3 looks like the groundwork for account switching for the optimistic. I’m less inclined to think we’ll see account switching on iPhone anytime soon, however, and figure we would see a model that looks more like the Mac where you choose users from the lock screen.
Another scenario is that multiple user accounts on tvOS is the groundwork for user profiles on the rumored Siri Speaker.
We haven’t heard much about Apple’s Amazon Echo/Google Home competitor lately, but it was reported last year that Apple was considering facial recognition features that allowed account switching from the rumored device.
Now facial recognition is most frequently mentioned as a rumored iPhone 8 feature that we could see later this year.
The last possibility is that Apple is simply addressing the problem of not being able to personalize the Apple TV experience for iCloud Music Library and iCloud Photo Library in the living room. In that case, account switching could be only intended for tvOS and not make it to iOS anytime soon (or that rumored Siri Speaker). Fingers crossed that this rumor pans out for tvOS 11 and makes its way to iOS 11 for iPad as well.