My family upgraded to iOS 8 pretty quickly. My sister updated her iPhone 5, my dad updated his 4S and iPad mini, and my 5S and iPad Air were already ready. During her setup phase, my sister decided to try out a new iOS 8 feature called Family Sharing.
I’d read a little about the feature on Apple’s website and in iOS 8 reviews, but I hadn’t had any hands-on time with it, so I accepted the invite. A few minutes later my dad, my sister, and I were officially a digital Apple family. This gave us the ability to easily see each other’s app and media purchases, and it automatically set up Find My Friends and shared task lists and calendars for us.
We spent the first few days quite happy with the setup. Find My Friends made it easier to see if my dad was going to be late for lunch, and the purchased tabs made it a lot easier for him to bolster his app collection by choosing from the massive library I’ve accrued over the years as a reviewer.
We only started to have trouble with Family Sharing when we realized that all of the charges from there on out would be charged to my sister’s credit card. That meant every song, every app, and every show I might buy would be billed to her.
I thought I could just work around this by paying my sister with a direct transfer after every app purchase, but this quickly became a hassle. Family Sharing also seems to lack any obvious tracker of who bought what, so it became harder to tell what I still needed to pay my sister for. The final straw came when the App Store told me I couldn’t update a few of my apps because I needed to log in…even though I had never logged out of my personal iTunes account. I tried a reset and logging in and out anyway, but in the end, leaving the family seemed like my only option.
So it was that I went into iCloud settings, tapped on my own name, and left my family behind. We still see each other on Sunday, but we don’t share.
I think Family Sharing is a solid feature for families with kids that are too young to buy their own apps or for parents that want to personally approve each iTunes purchase, but it really falls short for families where the kids have already grown up and moved out. My sister and I have our own credit cards and income, but we wanted to take advantage of Family Sharing to make app sharing a little easier. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to wait until Apple’s idea of family is expanded before we find this feature useful.