I get all confused about all these different IDs I have and need to use the iOS devices/iTunes. I want to use our devices in the family the best way.

We are three people:

  • me -- currently the only one with a real Apple-ID
  • my wife -- currently without an Apple-ID, but with her own email
  • and my infant which does not have nor need her own ID at all, I think :-)

The devices we have are:

  • 1 iPhone for myself, ("A" = phone husband)
    • 1 PC+iTunes, which syncs my iPhone ("PC-A" = PC/iTunes husband)
  • 1 iPhone for my wife ("B" = phone wife)
    • 1 PC+iTunes, which syncs hers ("PC-B")
  • 1 iPod Touch 1G for my infant, which she just starts to appreciate ("C")
    • I probably sync/fill this device with my PC+iTunes, too, for the time being.

Of course I want to use the Apps and Music to by available on all devices. And as far as I understand this is allowed by apple, as long as its up to 5 devices, which its is. I was able to do this at least while I gave my old phone to my wife while both devices were connected to the same Apple-ID -- but I don't think this how it is meant to be set-up, right?

Very important is that both iPhones are able to use their respective iMessage accounts, so I can recieve mine (and only mine), she hers (and only hers), and we can send iMessages to each other. During upgrading to iOS7 I managed to mess this up and we got all iMessages of each other ;-(. This is where I got confuded with iCloud-Account, iMessage-Adresses and Apple-ID, I think.

Not as much important would be to share a Todo-List and/or Calendar over the phones, so we can put items and appointments into our own calendar, which then appears on the others phone.

  • What IDs and Accounts do we need?
    • and what device should be connected to which accounts?
    • What accounts should be the same on which devices, if any?
  • I am correct that I can legally access the Apps/Music family-wide, right?
    • If the phones are connected to different Apple-IDs and synced with different iTunes', how can I use acquired Apps/Music on both?

4 Answers 4


You need to understand that an Apple ID is not (or may not be) the same as an iCloud Account, which is not (or may not be) the same as an iTunes Store Account. An Apple ID is the credential set you use for accessing various services by Apple. Once you have an Apple ID, you can associate it with different services from Apple.

Anyone can create an Apple ID by visiting My Apple ID. Once you have an Apple ID (or more), you can choose how you would wish to use it.

For your case, you need three Apple IDs to keep things simple:

  • One Apple ID shared between all the members of your family for content purchases from the iTunes and App Stores
  • One individual Apple ID for your wife for iCloud, iMessage and FaceTime
  • One individual Apple ID for you for iCloud, iMessage and FaceTime

Here's how you would use these Apple IDs on the devices and PCs:

  1. iTunes Store Purchases - In the case of a family (and specifically for you), you would have one Apple ID whose credentials are known by all family members so that all content purchased from the iTunes and App Stores can be shared across all devices.

    • You configure this on your iPhone, your wife's iPhone and your infant's iPod Touch under Settings > iTunes & App Stores menu option.
    • You configure this in iTunes on your PC as well as on your wife's PC from the Store > Sign In... menu option.
  2. iCloud Services - In almost every case, this would be an individual Apple ID so that Find My iPhone, Mail, Calendar, Reminders, etc., are segregated by user.

    • You configure your Apple ID on your iPhone under Settings > iCloud.
    • Your wife would configure her Apple ID on her iPhone under Settings > iCloud.
    • You do not configure this in iTunes on the PCs. However, if you use the iCloud Control Panel for Windows, you can configure it there.
    • You do not configure this for your infant at this point in time.
  3. iMessage - In almost every case, this would be an individual Apple ID so that each person receives and manages messages intended for that person.

    • You configure your Apple ID on your iPhone under Settings > Messages.
    • Your wife would configure her Apple ID on her iPhone under Settings > Messages.
    • You do not configure this anywhere on your PCs.
    • You do not configure this for your infant at this point in time.
  4. FaceTime - To avoid confusion, this would be an individual Apple ID for each person.

    • You configure your Apple ID on your iPhone under Settings > FaceTime.
    • Your wife would configure her Apple ID on her iPhone under Settings > FaceTime.
    • You do not configure this anywhere on your PCs.
    • You do not configure this for your infant at this point in time.

On content sharing between devices, you can use an account with up to 10 devices. Here's what iLounge says based on Apple's policy about "More than five family devices sharing a single iTunes account":

Actually, the limit of five devices per iTunes Store account only applies to authorizations for computers using iTunes. Apple actually allows you to have up to ten devices authorized in total for features such as iTunes Match and re-downloading previous purchases from iTunes in the Cloud, up to five of which can be computers running iTunes. So in other words, you could have anywhere from 10 iOS devices and no computers up to five computers and five iOS devices or any combination in between. You can view the number of devices that have been authorized for these features by going into your iTunes Store account information from within iTunes and choosing the Manage Devices option.

To share calendars, see iCloud: Share a calendar with others.
To share reminders, see iCloud: Share a reminder list.


You can configure different Apple-IDs for the App/iTunesStore and for iMessage etc.
Here is what I use in my family:

1 Apple-ID for the stores on all devices (this is actually my Apple-ID as that is the one that had most apps purchased)
1 Apple-ID for my wife to use with iMessage/iCloud etc on her phone.
If you have more members in your family you would add a separate Apple-ID for each to use iMessage/iCloud with.

My iPad runs on my Apple-ID for the stores.
iMessage is not set up there and it basically is our computer for surfing the web in the living room that is free for everyone to use. So there is not much personal setup (mail accounts etc.) there.

And yes: sharing an Apple-ID for app and music purchases is legal.

We have only one iTunes library that is located on an always on Mac mini.
We basically only sync with it if we want to update music that was not purchased through iTunes or to do encrypted backups before updating the phones.

Syncing with a second iTunes probably complicates things. Perhaps others can fill in info about this. If we had a second computer we probably would only copy the music to that machine but never sync any phones with that instance of iTunes.

We have a family calendar that is associated with my wife's Apple-ID and is shared with my Apple-ID.
It probably would be better to have a separate Apple-ID for myself instead of using the (now) shared store Apple-ID for myself.
That way the shared Apple-ID could be used as host of the family calendar which it would share with each family members personal Apple-ID. So if you are setting this up all from scratch that would be the best thing to do.

We currently don't share a digital ToDo list.
Grocery shopping lists are shared via the "Buy me a Pie!" app.


Let's make this simple...

Every individual person needs an Apple ID. Your Apple ID is your 'gateway' to, and identifies you for, everything in the Apple domain.

Your Apple ID will usually be your personal email address - and you must have an email address to have an Apple ID.

Therefore your wife, who will act on her on behalf, needs an Apple ID. Having her use yours on her iPhone - bad idea.

For your child it's up to you whether you want her to have an email account. Obviously you or your wife would be managing that. Again the question is uniqueness... so if you use your Apple ID to 'manage' your child's iPod touch then you will be getting all the kids stuff on your Apple ID. If you make an Apple ID for your child obviously you are not going to be giving her the password - just yet :-)

Assuming you have all have Apple IDs, you can:

  1. Share app & iTunes store purchases - buy once the whole family use.
  2. Have personal 'data stores' like contacts etc. but which you can share with each other as wished.
  3. Have it clear which device is used by which family member.
  4. Have music which you can share with each other via iTunes using Home Sharing.

Setup everyone with Apple IDs, use those also for iCloud and connect the Apple devices to the Apple ID.


in addition to @Tourismos answer I would add that you should just get your own domain. And then set up domain and email forwarding. Depending on who you choose as your provider they will have tutorials on how to do this.

That way you can have two accounts one for you and one for your wife called (towdi is just for illustrative purposes, we have a domain with my wife's maiden name): [email protected] [email protected]

Then you can also have an account called [email protected] and one [email protected] Where any mail directed to those two accounts goes both to mr@ and mrs@ so you both get a copy. This is a joint catch all account, so that if anybody emails [email protected] you will both get it.

The fourth account would be your joint apple account which you could use for joint apps. We called this account [email protected] (except of course the domain is ours not towdi.com)

Keep itunes logged in with the itunes account.

Mail and iMessage with [email protected] for you and [email protected] for your wife.

  • Actually, we sort of do that already. Not with an own domain (which I have with a virtual root server), but with Google Mail. You can forward all mails the way you described. But my basic problem was to sort through the IDs and accounts of the Apple services...
    – towi
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 12:11
  • Yes apple have made it complicated esp if you used to use their mac.com domain and then later me.com which now has turned into icloud.com. In any case we just use the three accounts, one for my wife and I each, and the itunes account which is shared, used on itunes and apple tv.
    – Deesbek
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 13:00
  • 1
    apple.stackexchange.com/a/36330/10733 is a similar question to yours, and the answer is to keep it simple with one joint a/c and iCloud a/c's for each individual.
    – Deesbek
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 13:04

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