- Version 1 - Personal ‘mother’ accounts with additional central account
- Version 2 - central ‘mother’ account with additional personal accounts
- Version 2 was the winner for us, your mileage may vary.
We talked a lot about ‘clouds’ and ‘syncing’ in this book. It’s great that the iPad is in sync with the clouds and through them with the iPhone… but it’d be even cooler to sync people together, right? This is why we’ve been testing several ways of syncing contacts and calendars with our wives in the most efficient way possible.
We are true geeks over here and we have an iPad, our wives have iPad Minis and we all have iPhones. We also have two kids and complex scheduling as far as work-life balance is concerned. There are no Apple guidelines on how to create a perfect iCloud-centric family setup so after a few trial and error sessions we came up with two options and tested both of them extensively.
We’ve been fans of syncing calendars and contacts since the age of Nokia phones, Palm Pilots and infrared (do you remember what that was?). We remember putting our phones next to our laptops and hoping for the best. We didn’t have to insert the contacts manually whenever we changed a device to a newer model. With the iPhone we had the cable sync and later a MobileMe account (yes, we both were actually paying for it). It worked great on a personal level.
However, when you’re in a marriage, things get scheduled and you have more obligations. And because we work from home, our wives would assume we’d always be available. It is annoying to suddenly get a doctor’s appointment scheduled in the middle of your conference call. Another problem was contacts. Texting for the information that we were supposed to have, friends, doctors, insurance information and more, were not uncommon. It had to stop.
Let’s start with the basics: iCloud ID and Apple ID - how many do you need and how many you can have?
Apparently you need an Apple ID (iCloud ID) for:
- iCloud storage (data, photo stream)
- Contacts, Calendar, Bookmarks and other settings
- iMessage and FaceTime
- Apps and Music purchases
The thing is, you can have several Apple accounts for each of these individual things. You don’t need to have one iCloud/Apple account to rule them all. You can, but you don’t have to. And that’s the clue to more flexibility.
Another thing is that each device (iPhone/iPad/iPod/Mac) needs to have one ‘mother’ account - the main iCloud account that supports its data, photo stream, backups and such. And then you can set up additional accounts for calendars, contacts, iMessage, FaceTime and purchases… if you like.
There are two ways to set up family iCloud accounts. OK, there are no ‘family iCloud’ accounts per se, but you can mimic them in two ways:
Version 1 - you can set up your personal iCloud account as the ‘mother account’ on your device and add a common iCloud account for additional syncing of contacts and calendars.
Version 2 - you can set up the same ‘mother’ iCloud account on all family devices and personalize them with additional iCloud accounts on each of them (for iMessage and FaceTime).
Each version has its PROs and CONs. Now, let’s dive into details:
Version 1 - Personal ‘mother’ accounts with additional central account
Michael had this setup for a few months with his wife; here’s how he did it:
‘I set up three iCloud accounts - one for my wife, one for me and one as a ‘central’ account. We used the central account as the account with our Address Book and Calendars.
On each device that belonged to my wife I set up her iCloud account as the main account and marked that this device should sync everything with the iCloud EXCEPT for Calendars and Contacts. I did the same for my devices.
Now, in each devices’ section of ‘Mail, Calendars and Contacts’ I added an additional iCloud account - our ‘common’ iCloud account and set up the device to sync only Contacts and Calendars (and Reminders) there.
We would also set up the ‘common’ iCloud account for our Music and App purchases (no need to buy stuff twice, right?).
That’s it. Now my wife and I could see the same calendars and contacts but have separate iCloud accounts.”
Benefits of this setup: You have separate bookmarks, separate data and separate photo streams. Sounds good, right?
Disadvantages of this setup: If you sync and backup to iCloud (and we do) and are running out of free 5GB space, you need to upgrade each account separately. It’s more difficult to share photos (although now it’s possible through shared photo streams).
Version 2 - central ‘mother’ account with additional personal accounts
Here’s Michael’s second experiment:
“This is the other way around and this is something we later switched to and ultimately kept as our setup.
First off, we wanted to share the same iCloud account for backups now that we have an additional iPad Mini backing up to the iCloud and both of our iPhones. Second thing is that we wanted to have the same photo stream. My wife said she wouldn’t mind seeing an occasional screenshot of one of our apps or my other work-related stuff.
The thing is that from now on, we don’t have to worry about who is taking pictures of our family - if it’s me or my wife with her iPhone. The photos go to the same stream (and they are also streamed to the iPhoto on our home Mac Mini).
The same applies to ‘documents in the Cloud’. I’m more of an iWork guy (and I use Byword for text files) and my wife is more of an MS Office kind of girl. We don’t use the same apps so there is no problem with documents overlap.
I understand with this setup we give up a little more privacy but how much privacy do you need in a marriage? We trust each other and the convenience of synced contacts, calendars and photo streams is enormous. We love it.
Apart from that I set up our personal iCloud accounts as accounts for iMessage and FaceTime. This way my wife has the same unique and personal iCloud account on her iPhone and iPad Mini and MacBook Air and I have my personal iCloud account set up on all of my devices. Recently my wife complained a little about the amount of contacts I accumulated over the years (especially business-wise) so I decided to move these to the address book on my personal iCloud account. This way our ‘common’ Address book is slimmer and consists of mostly people we talk to frequently.”
Benefits of this setup: More integration, common photo stream and backing up all of the devices to the same iCloud account - if we need more space, we can upgrade just one ‘mother’ account.
Disadvantages of this setup: Less privacy as you share photo streams and documents.
That’s the magic of iFamily - iCloud and iDevices in the family :-)
Version 2 was the winner for us, your mileage may vary.
After extensive testing and a few months of usage, in both Augusto’s and Michael’s family, version 2 prevailed. The benefits of having the same photos as well as not having to ask your spouse about ‘that phone number’ or scheduling conflicts in the calendar are great and make our lives more convenient.