If you and your family are looking to share subscriptions, photos, storage, and better connect your devices, Apple’s Family Sharing feature is the ultimate tool for iOS users. With Family Sharing, up to six family members can connect their Apple accounts to pool iCloud data, share purchases through Apple services and track each other’s devices.
Being able to share all sorts of data and features across devices without managing a list of passwords and accounts is a blessing for some families. The feature is pretty customizable and easily altered too — you can hide some information that you'd rather not share and change the members of your group without much hassle.
What can be shared with Family Sharing?
Whoever sets up Family Sharing and is dubbed the “Organizer” for your group will be prompted to pick what sort of information is shared by the group when they are first inviting family members. This can always be altered and we’ll go into set-up details below, but here’s what the feature was designed to share:
- Anyone in the group will be able to view and download iTunes and App Store purchases made by anyone else in the group. Each family member will get immediate access to the purchased music, movies, TV Shows, books, and apps. Purchased apps can only be shared if they’re Family Sharting compatible — there’s no master list of compatible apps, but it will be noted in the App Store.
- Apple subscriptions to TV+, Music, Arcade, News+, or Fitness+ are shared with all users in the group.
- With Family Sharing enabled, you can purchase and share an Apple Music Family plan that’s significantly cheaper than six individual plans. Everyone will get their own Apple Music account with a personal music library and recommendations.
- You can choose to share an iCloud+ storage plan with your family where everyone can back up their devices and save important files. No one has access to each other’s files — your mom won’t be able to dig through your photos — but everyone will be able to see how much storage space each member is using. There are 200GB and 2TB storage plans compatible with Family Sharing.
- You can enable constant location sharing with Family Sharing, allowing family members to keep an eye on everyone’s whereabouts. This is a great feature if there are young children in the family, but can be turned off for adults. Location sharing allows everyone to use the Find My feature together — perfect for when you lose your device.
- There’s a screen time monitoring tool available if you’re keeping an eye on phone usage for your children.
Before you get excited about sharing your purchases with everyone in your contacts, Apple only allows users to be a part of one family group at a time and only allows switching to a new group once a year.
How to set up Family Sharing
The customizations and making sure the whole family is on the same page can be a bit of a task, but enabling Family Sharing and starting the process takes just a moment. This guide shows how setting up a Family Plan on an iPhone 11 works, but you can also set it up on an iPad or Mac.
- On your iPhone, open Settings.
- Tap on your profile photo or name at the top of the “Settings” menu to open up your Apple ID settings.
- Find and tap on “Family Sharing” at the bottom of the second sub-menu on the Apple ID page.
- If this is your first time using Family Sharing, you’ll likely be met with a brief description of the feature with links to more info from Apple. Tap “Get Started” to continue.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to pick which sharing options you’d like to have enabled.
- You’ll be asked to choose a shared payment method for your family group. This card will be attached to the Family Sharing feature to pay for things like a shared iCloud Plan or Apple Music subscription. Individual users can, of course, use their own payment methods while making purchases and you can set up Apple Cash Family for children on the account. Apple will prompt you to pick a payment method already set up with your Apple Wallet, but you can enter a new option as well.
- Next, tap on “Invite Family Members” (this will later show up as “Add Family Member” once your initial setup is complete). This will launch a new iMessage that you can send out to whoever you’d like to invite to your Family Sharing group. All members need to have their own Apple ID to join.
Now that you’ve invited members to your Family Sharing group, any share setting you enabled will become active as soon as they accept the invite on their own devices. You can return to the Family Sharing menu at any time to alter settings, change payment methods, or add and remove group members.