Apple announced its new Family Sharing feature at its World Wide Developer Conference this week. But what is Family Sharing and how does it actually help?
At its heart Family Sharing is about offering more control to parents over their children, while also netting Apple more sales. One credit card can be used for the entire family so a child must request to buy any app from the card holder. An alert is sent to the parent who can review the app and decide to approve or decline the purchase.
Apple has had plenty of cases where a child gets hold of an unlocked parent's device and racks up a huge bill. In most cases we've heard about Apple has refunded the person, often in the thousands of pounds. So this new option isn't just about giving more control to parents for their sake, it's probably a big help for Apple too.
Of course this also offers children a way to shop for apps, while pestering parents more easily from a distance, which ultimately will sell more and make Apple more money – a skeptic might say.
What's mine is yours
One of the really great things about Family Sharing is the ability to share everything that's been downloaded with everyone else in the group. Music, videos, books and even apps – once downloaded – are shared with everyone in the family group.
Each family member can have their own account and won't need to share passwords for logins to use each other's content. Of course not all apps will allow sharing but for things like books it's a really useful way of keeping your page while someone else reads the same download on another device.
Sharing photos should be much easier within Family Sharing. Rather than having to send a picture to each person via data networks or Wi-Fi, the pic can be uploaded to the group. That way the shared photo album can be seen by everyone else in the family right away.
The family photo stream is automatically set up but the choice of what to share is down to each member. So any snaps you don't want shared won't be, until you decide to add them to the album.
Family trips, dinners, parties, birthdays and the like can be written on the kitchen calendar, sure. But having everything stored digitally in the pocket on a phone is probably a bit easier. It also makes adding entries a simple task that can be done when the idea pops into the mind.
The shared family calendar updates across all devices and accounts so everyone can see what's coming up and plan around that. We like the idea of this helping a family's plans take precedence over other things thanks to setting them in a place that's easily accessible even while at work, for example.
The all-seeing eye of dad
Family Sharing lets everyone track each other's location. Scary as that can sound it also allows location to be turned off, should anyone want to plan a surprise for example.
This could be great for parents who want to keep an eye on their children's locations. Or when meeting up as a group to check where everyone is and how long they will be.
This is also useful for finding anyone's lost or mis-placed device. It works using the Find My iPhone app but just makes it easier to find it from a family member's device. It'll even make an audio alert if the phone is on silent.
Family Sharing will be included on the iOS 8 update which is due to be released in the autumn this year.
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