iCloud, iOS and multiple Apple IDs

The transition from MobileMe to iCloud presents unique challenges to households with multiple iOS devices and Apple IDs. Formerly used for iTunes purchases, a user’s Apple ID now manages iCloud photo streaming, the Find my iPhone and Find my Friends app, FaceTime, iMessage and iCloud features like calendar, mail, contacts, reminders and so on.

I was having a lot of trouble working my wife’s iPhone into the mix, as I used my own Apple ID when I first set it up a year ago. My goal at the time was to let all of our iOS devices share one account for iTunes purchases. I had also created an add-on email address via MobileMe that her iPhone used. It worked fine until the iCloud transition, when things got convoluted. I’ve finally reached a working – though imperfect – solution. Here’s how I’m managing multiple iOS devices and Apple IDs under iOS 5.

Graham Spencer posted a hugely useful article on sharing an Apple ID at MacStories. He suggested sharing one Apple ID for iTunes purchases, and creating a second one for personal iCloud information. That’s pretty much what I’ve implemented, though it’s not perfect.

The Apple IDs

The Apple ID I’ve used for years has become the “main ID.” It’s used by all iOS devices (and Macs) for purchases and rentals. The main ID, however, has a minimal role on my wife’s iPhone. Her personal ID is in greater use, and it’s mostly working very well. Here’s how I’m using both Apple IDs on her iPhone.

Setting up the “second” iPhone

I’m considering my iPhone the “main” iPhone and my wife’s as the “second” iPhone. Mine uses the main Apple ID throughout, so it’s not worth describing. The second iPhone is where I had to shuffle things around.

On the second iPhone, the main Apple ID is used for:

  • iCloud Photo Stream. I’ve logged into the iCloud preference pane with the main Apple ID. From there, I’ve turned Photo Sharing on and left everything else off. That way, photos taken by my wife’s iPhone, my iPhone and my iPad are shared across all devices plus our Macs.
  • The iTunes Store. I tapped the Store preference pane and entered the main Apple ID. That way, all purchases will be financed by the credit card I’ve used for years. I’ve also enabled automatic downloads for music, but not apps or books. While my wife and I share musical taste, she’s uninterested in collecting Twitter clients.

That’s it. Everything else is managed by the personal ID:

  • Email is logged in with the personal ID and password via the Mail, Contacts adn Calendars preference pane. I’ve enabled Contacts and Find My iPhone.
  • FaceTime. This way she can send/receive FaceTime calls identified as herself and, more importantly, we can do FaceTime calls between her iPhone and my iPhone and iPad.
  • iMessage. Again, same reason.

The good and bad

The good is that her iPhone now receives its own email, FaceTime calls, iMessage identification, calendar events and contacts. Also, it shares photos with all of our devices via iCloud Photo Stream and iTunes purchases and rentals are financed with the designated credit card.

There are problems, too. One is Apple’s Find My Friends app. Unfortunately, it’s tied to an iCloud ID. That means it will only accept the main Apple ID. So, if my wife and I were at a park with the kids, we couldn’t keep track of each other’s location.

iCloud photo streaming is the other potential problem. Those wanting to create separate streams are out of luck, as the personal ID will not work with iCloud photo streaming.

Other affected services include Game Center (my wife doesn’t play games so that was easy for us) and iTunes Home Sharing. We’re using the main Apple ID for that. Also, the main ID must be used for iCloud backup of data and documents.

If you’ve found anothe arrangement that works, please let me know. Our setup isn’t perfect, but it’s working so far.