How To Best Use and Share Apple IDs across iPhones, iPads and iPods

By far the most common question I get now is “Which AppleID account do I use?” Have you ever paid for an app twice because your accounts are not the same on your iPhone as they are on your spouse’s? How do we best use and share AppleIDs across iPhones, iPads and iPods in the same home?

The answer is unfortunately not an easy one, but I will share with you how our family effectively uses AppleIDs across various iOS devices. Having said that, here are the goals with which we arrived at this place, from the perspective of a Canadian:

  • Goal #1: Be able to access Canadian and US apps (note that in the iTunes Canada store, not all apps are available; some are restricted to USA only)
  • Goal #2: Make one single purchase and use apps, music, movies on all of the family’s iOS devices
  • Goal #3: Be able to use services like iCloud, FaceTime and iMessaging individually on devices – including the 5GB free for each device
  • Goal #4: Be able to find each other with “Find My Friends” app

To set this up will take some time. To keep things simple, I will assume you have three (3) iOS devices in your family and you have the same goals as above. If you have more, the adjustment should be quite simple.

  1. You will need 5 distinct AppleIDs – I will identify them as follows for reference (with implied roles for each):

    If you don’t have your five (5) accounts, simply go here:
    https://appleid.apple.com For the [email protected] account you will need to sign up with a US address and a valid US credit card or Vanilla MasterCard or VISA which you can pre-purchase at places like Shoppers Drugmart. When you have your accounts and passwords created and verified by following Apple’s friendly instructions, continue below.

  2. On all of the devices, setup the main “Store” account as [email protected] – see screenshots below:

  3. For iCloud, set each one up uniquely with its own account:

    Screenshots below are for mommy only:

    The above details are ours, but each setting is so for a reason as I will outline here:

    • Mail, Contacts & Calendars should be off if you use Google Mail or ActiveSync, as I do, otherwise you may want to consider the impact of turning these on
    • Reminders and Bookmarks are on so that in the future when I setup a new iOS device, each person’s reminders and bookmarks come down automatically
    • Photostream is off, and I have yet to find someone who finds this feature useful and usable, especially initially when you couldn’t even delete anything off your photostream (now you can)
    • Documents and Data – leave this On for various apps to be able to store content on iCloud
    • Find my iPhone – leave this to ON so you’re able to use this feature

  4. For easy FaceTime calling (by email address), setup each device on its own account (just as above with iCloud): Screenshots below are for daddy only, but you should do each one uniquely:

  5. For easy iMessaging use by everyone, setup each device on its own account (just as above with iCloud): Screenshots below are for kids only, but you should do each one uniquely:

If your goals are different than mine, you may have some variations. For example, if one person in your family has multiple iOS devices, you may use the same FaceTime, iMessaging account on all devices that are used only by that person. This allows messages and facetime to get to all devices at the same time, and you have a choice in terms of which you want to respond with. This same strategy applies if you wish to use the Photostream feature.

In our family we’ve explored all the various features, and ended up in this above state. It has turned out to be the best solution for many other families as well so I wanted to share it with the world.

Do you have some creative or better way to share AppleIDs and content across devices to work just the way you need them?

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10 Responses to “How To Best Use and Share Apple IDs across iPhones, iPads and iPods”

  1. Geoff Heys June 8, 2012 at 12:36 am #


    Good write up of a complex and sometimes painful process.


  2. Cherie December 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    This was extremely helpful in adding multiple devices to our account. Thank you for making it so simple!

  3. Marty November 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Hi, can you please explain how you manage store purchases from the US & Canadion iTunes stores across the multiple devices?

  4. Michael November 6, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    Thanks for this but now, you didnt explain what you need to do with the USA Account? iTunes store is signed in with Canadian account, so how do access the US stuff? Do you just need to keep signing out? TIA

  5. Steve November 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Thanks, but I think it’s evading me. My wife and I both have iPads. I have been using mine for some time now. My wife just got hers. We want to be able to share and use the same music, apps, etc, but separate iClouds. If she purchases an app, I don’t necessarily want it downloading to my iPad automatically, and vice versa. She has an apple ID, which my kids use. I guess it’s like an family account. I have my own Apple Id, as well. However, I have used it to purchase apps for her on her own iPad, which perhaps I should not have done. Just trying to keep things simple and organized. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  6. Tracie March 29, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    Hi, would this work in the uk, if so how would we find out what the uk version is? I am a little confused by the Canada/USA thing. Sorry for sounding so dumb 🙁

  7. Tracie March 29, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    Sorted it thanks 🙂 excellent advice

  8. Gina June 8, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    I’m a family if 6. We all have different iTunes accounts on about 12 different devices.

    When I purchased my first nano I used my husbands account to have his music and have purchased a lot of my own now on his. I realized later that he had to many songs so I wanted now to just pull the ones I purchased and a few of his but never figured it out.

    Now I have an iPhone and iPad with my own account but can not get my old purchases.

    I also have a business that I use some aps for.

    And I have purchased the larger cloud thing for storage. Whatever that does.

    IDumb lol. I’ve seen many forums on this and still can’t figure it out.

    This is what I want:
    1/ to access my old music with my new music on all three of my personal accounts
    2/ to be able to access a few apps or music from my husbands account so I don’t have to re purchase
    3/ for my daughter to access her games purchased on both mine and my husbands accounts and use on her new device
    4/ to set up a new device for my business and use/sync apps previously purchased on my/husbands accounts
    5/ be able to use or see calendars for all family members on all devices
    6/ not lose any purchases on our devices.

    I probubly need to go into the apple store to get it figured out but thought I’d throw it out there!!


  9. Alex Occulate November 21, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Very good!

    Thanks a lot!

  10. Angel Thomas April 5, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    That was brilliant!
    Nothing that I needed but did help me understand what I am trying to accomplish.

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