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The official landing page for the Family Sharing feature states the following:

https://www.apple.com/family-sharing/

When you set up your family, a shared album is created automatically in the Photos app on all family members’ devices. Everyone can add photos, videos, and comments to the album whenever they like and get notified when something new is added. Family Sharing also sets up a family calendar where everyone can view, add, or change events and appointments, and get an alert when something changes. And anyone can use the Reminders app to send time or location reminders to the family. So when it’s picture day, pizza night, or just a trip to the beach, everyone’s in the know.

My household is new to the Apple ecosystem and did not set up the Family Sharing feature on our devices until after iOS 15 was released. After Family Sharing was set up between both Apple IDs, I found that the apps mentioned in the marketing text above did not create the shared objects in these apps automatically. There is no shared photo gallery for the family, no shared calendar, and no shared reminders list. It is still possible to create these objects manually and share them the old fashioned way, but the feature is not working as advertised above.

It looks like either 1) the shared objects are not being generated, or 2) none of the devices are able to see them due to a bug. A few internet searches show others reporting a similar problem, but none ever reported a solution. None of these were terribly recent.

Devices used to set up family sharing

  • Family member 1 (Organizer)

    • iPhone 13 Pro Max, iOS 15.1
    • iPad Air 4th Generation, iPadOS 15.0.2
  • Family member 2 (Adult)

    • iPhone 13, iOS 15.1

Attempted troubleshooting

  • Powered off all devices and powered them back on again.
  • Verified that all devices were signed in to the correct Apple ID accounts, and that other family members were visible under Settings -> Apple ID -> Family Sharing.
  • Verified that Location Sharing for family members was able to be set up between these three devices and worked without any issues.
  • Removed family member #2, removed family member #1 (effectively disbanding the family), and restarted Family Sharing from scratch. Re-invited family member 2, set up Location Sharing again, verified that the feature was still working in the Find My app. Still no change within the Calendar, Photos, and Reminders apps.

2 Answers 2

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After performing the troubleshooting steps above, I scheduled a call with Apple support and walked the technician through the problem and the steps that were taken.

  • I was asked to perform the additional step of enabling Purchase Sharing. Neither of us expected this to work, and it did not.
  • I was then asked to provide a link to the documentation where the expected functionality was described, and he was surprised to see that I was quoting from https://www.apple.com/family-sharing/ and not an outdated knowledgebase article.
  • The technician asked for some time to consult with a peer and review internal documentation. He was able to find an internal document stating that this was expected behavior, but was otherwise vague on details. He explained that he has come across this sort of verbiage before, and that it is often a step toward functionality being deprecated within Apple software.
  • He informed me that all he could do is provide some internal feedback about the missing feature still being described within the marketing materials. It was very unlikely anyone would be getting back to him personally in response, and that we were effectively at a dead end on troubleshooting the issue.

It's odd that I don't see more postings about this situation when trying to research the problem via search engines. I see two possibilities at this point:

  1. The technician is correct and this feature has recently been deprecated. It's weird that more people aren't complaining about it, but apparently I'm one of the few people who decided to wait until late 2021 to set up Family Sharing on an iPhone.
  2. My Apple ID has somehow bugged out, and the technician found a vaguely worded internal bulletin that caused him to give up on troubleshooting too quickly.

I'm leaving this Q&A open for two weeks in the off chance that the support rep was wrong and another user is able to identify a solution. Worst case scenario, I'll accept this as the answer and the Q&A will save future users from spending unnecessary time on this problem in the future. (at least until Apple gets around to updating their marketing materials)

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  • Were you able to find a solution for this? I just setup family sharing with my wife assuming we would get a shared calendar, photo album and reminders (as is still stated today on Apple's website), but I'm not seeing any of those. Commented Mar 13, 2022 at 11:04
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    @mlangenberg Nope. As best as I can tell you have to create them yourself and share them.
    – Andrew B
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 16:23
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Anecdotally, it appears the "automatic" nature may be affected if similar shared resources exist prior to creating/joining a Family Sharing group:

I had no expectation that anything would need to change (or be automatically created) when we signed up - and nothing did.

Today I tried (unsuccessfully) to export our old/pre-existing "Family" shared calendar from iCloud.com, and discovered it had somehow been designated the official "Family Sharing" calendar (first time learning about this feature):

Family Calendar Info

This calendar is automatically shared with members of your family.

....Except it isn't... - it's shared only amongst two of us, with no option to add the other family members (from iCloud.com anyway), and though I'm the Family Sharing organizer, I'm somehow not the calendar owner

In other words, it's configured just as it was when created years ago. Save for the blurb above (from iCloud.com), there's no indication that it's special. Appears to be a plain shared calendar on our devices - (and we can presumably share it with arbitrary/non-family members - though I didn't try). Had I not logged in to iCloud.com, I would've never known it was special.

We also had pre-existing shared album and reminders - and have not seen any new versions of those get automatically created.

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