Apple’s iOS5 and OSX Lion bring with them a number of new features. One of the most pivotal in Apple’s future is their cloud storage service… iCloud. This allows you to sync photos, documents, backup your iOS devices, and more. Basically, it’s Dropbox, Box.com, SugarSync, and then some! It will allow your iOS devices to be fully cable free (except for charging, but I’m sure it won’t be long before that is cable free too!)

However, the system isn’t without pitfalls as it is based on a user’s AppleID. Currently, there is no way to merge AppleID’s into a single cohesive family. This obviously presents issues when attempting to manage devices for a household. Let’s look at a typical hypothetical family situation…

The Scenario
Tony and Bridgette Dough have been married twenty years and each have brand new iPhones. They have two children Moe and Joe. Moe has an iPhone and iPad; Joe is unloved and only has an iPod Touch. They each want to be able to use the “Find My Friends” app, iMessage, and have separate calendars & contacts. However, Bridgette (being the tech savvy wife she is) also wants to be able to track and remotely wipe devices with the “Find My iPhone” app. She also wants for the family to be able to share all app purchases, and to have a calendar and core contacts for the entire family.

This setup presents a number of issues we must overcome due the the various ways they each use the AppleID for verification. However, it IS feasible with a little planning and work. Just like any complex compounded problem we must first break things down into their core components and tackle them one at a time.

AppleID’s
Before we do anything else we must first create five AppleID’s… once for each family member and one central family wide one. This step is the cornerstone to ensuring everything works properly. If you already have AppleID’s with purchases make this ID your family wide. If you happen to already have multiple ID’s already with purchases (I hate to say it) you’re screwed. The only thing (currently) you can do is figure out which one has the fewest purchases on it and cut your losses (by making the one with the most/most expensive apps your family account.)

For this example, the (fictitious) AppleID’s are Bridgette@Dough.com, Tony@Dough.com, Moe@Dough.com, Joe@Dough.com, & Family@Dough.com.

iCloud
Go to “Settings > iCloud”. Here you need to make a decision as for how you want things organized for your family. You have three fundamental organizational questions here.

  1. Do you want all iOS devices backed up to iCloud or to manage it from a local computer?
  2. If you choose to back things up to iCloud, the simplest solution, do you want each device backing up to a central account, or do you want each backed up to their own account?
  3. Finally, do you want to use Photo Stream to collate photos from every device, or not bother?

I will say, if you choose to use PhotoStream to store photos from all your devices it may use up a lot of iCloud space depending on how many photos your family takes. In such an case you may likely want to look into purchasing extra iCloud storage.

If you choose to backup all devices centrally to iCloud or use Photo Stream for all devices you MUST use the family AppleID (Family@Dough.com) for your iCloud ID here.

If you do not wish to backup devices centrally or use a central Photo Stream feel free to use the individual AppleID here.

iMessage
One of the coolest features of iOS5 (and the forthcoming Messages app in OSX Mountain Lion) is iMessage. To set this up go to “Settings > Messages” and first ensure that iMessage is turned “On”. Next, scroll down to “Receive At”. On an iPhone here you will see your phone number pre-filled and an option to “Add Another Email”. Input the AppleID of the device’s owner. In the case of Moe, who has two devices all to himself, he will still use his ID (Moe@Dough.com) for both devices. This will allow him to send/receive iMessages from either device. All other family members will follow suit and use their respective ID’s. iMessage setup is done, and everyone can now send free messages to everyone else (with iOS5 devices)!

There is one caveat for Moe as he has both an iPhone and iPad connected to the same AppleID. In the Messages settings he will need to select “Receive at” and then select “Called ID.” Once here, there will be a selection with both the actual phone number and the AppleID email address. He will need to select the AppleID. This means whenever he sends an iMessage it will show as coming from that email address and not the phone number. This is (currently) necessary to ensure that incoming iMessages are consistently sent to both devices. In my experience, if you set the CallerID to the phone number other devices get the messages sporadically. It’s likely Apple will fix this in the future, but for now it’s a necessary evil.

App Store
This one is pretty straightforward assuming you have organized everything as I previously mentioned. Simply go to “Settings > Store” and use the family ID (Family@Dough.com). You do have an extra option here. That is, for Automatic Downloads. Essentially, if someone purchases a Book, App, or Music it will be automatically pushed to any device with the respective auto download enabled. This is either a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. It can be one way to monitor what your family is purchasing to know if someone is abusing the family account or not. On the other hand, if little Joe is constantly downloading free agitated bird games and kids books constantly deleting them from your device could get annoying.

 

A word of caution: with this setup, if you want everyone to be able to purchase apps everyone will need the password to the central family ID to purchase anything. Then again, you could also withhold the password and force them to come to you to let them purchase an App, Book, or Music.

 

Find My Friends
This must first be downloaded from the App Store. While you’re there go ahead and download the “Find My iPhone” app as well. Once downloaded, simply set this up with the individual AppleID’s and invite friends and family to stalk you!

 

Find My iPhone
This is simpler to setup correctly than it may seem at first. A common issue many people get is that the Find My Friends and Find My iPhone often get configured on the same ID resulting in Tony being unable to locate Moe’s iPad should he loose it while out with his friends last night.

 

What you need to do depends upon your decision in the iCloud section earlier. If you used the Family ID then you’re all set. However, if you used the Individual ID you need to go to “Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars” and scroll down to “Add Account….” Here select “iCloud” and input the individual account’s credentials. For now, turn all settings to off with the exception of “Find my iPhone”. You will receive a warning saying if you do this it will disable it from the other iCloud account. Ignore the message and continue. That’s all there is to it!

 

Contacts & Calendars
These last two steps can either be fairly simple or tricky depending upon your desires. Both Contacts and Calendars are setup in a similar manner in “Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars”

If you simply want all Contact information, or Calendars shared between everyone; leave the Contacts or Calendar field turned “ON” under the family iCloud account here.

If you wish for each family member to have entirely separate Contacts & Calendars the process the identical except that you would turn the respective fields “ON” under the individual accounts.

Now, lets say you want to be trick like Bridgette and have a group of central contacts/calendars shared by everyone, and then allow the individuals to add their own private contacts/events. You can accomplish this by turning the respective settings “ON” under both the family & individual iCloud accounts! The only thing one needs to be careful of with this is what account you are actually saving individual contacts to.
It’s worth noting that the “Notes” and “Reminders” apps function in this same manner.

You should now be all set! Relax and enjoy!