I admit it… I love Apple products. Maybe not because they are the best, (though I could argue that they are!) nor because they are the cheapest (they aren’t), but because they make things easy. I’m looking for technology that works.
I could certainly navigate the Android ecosystem with ease, but my kids (probably not) and my wife (certainly) would struggle and that would end up being more difficult for me. Almost two-years into our family iPhone experience, we love them. Except for our iCloud experience. However, I think I finally found the right combination of compromises and corrections from failed attempts to document it here.
First, give up on the idea of a shared calendar or contacts list through iCloud. Or reminders, notes, or well, any of the items under the iCloud menu in the Settings. Take my word for it, having your 11-year old daughter’s reminders pop up, aren’t as useful as you may think. (There are much easier ways to share calendars and contacts… we are heavy users of gmail calendars and contacts – in fact, I have 8 personal calendars for the various activities my kids are involved in)
We ended up creating new iCloud IDs (son987@iCloud.com) for each phone. And have those be dedicated to each person. My kids both have iPads so they use the same iCloud ID on those so that they can share stuff across their own devices. This greatly helps with “monitoring” your kids activity too, when they leave a device at home. I highly recommend using a pattern across all the iCloud IDs (like firstName6543@iCloud.com for each person… having the same password for both kids is a good thing too). Once set, they’ll likely never use this ID again, so it really isn’t important. (You can create an iCloud ID “under” your family ID to get around that pesky 13-year-old issue.)
The AppStore user ID and password can be different and if you share music and movies as we do in our house, we all use the same AppStore ID.
So, now I have four people with four different iCloud IDs and (in our case, 9 devices between our iMac, MacBook Pro, 3 iPads and 4 iPhones).
I finally broke down and created different user IDs for each person on the family iMac. A couple of benefit of this was that now we can have multiple PhotoStreams all stream to the iMac. If all the of the User IDs on the iMac are pointing to the same iPhoto library, you can have all the PhotoStreams end up in one place. (All users need to be logged in… this is far from perfect, but it works) People can then share their other stuff with their iMac account. It all works pretty well. Just have to get everyone to log onto their account on the family iMac. (Auto lock the iMac when the screen saver kicks in to remind my wife to click on her name!)
iMessenger is amazingly useful and allows me to do things that I could never do with straight up SMS messaging. It allows me to respond to iMessages on multiple devices. I encourage you to check your Settings / Messages / Sending and Receive to make sure that you are interacting with the right phone number and email addresses on each of your devices. (A cool, and yet significantly novel concept is that you can respond to iMessages to your phone number on any device.)
I’ve attached what my wife’s very scary looking Messages setting screen looks like here. You’ll notice that it could be associated with three-different phone numbers. I very quickly ended up with multiple devices sharing the same IDs (while I was learning my way around iCloud). In fact, I ended up having conversations with the wife of a friend whom had recently changed devices. This is worth doing on all of your devices so your kid doesn’t respond to an iMessage from your boss by mistake! (I’ve called out iMessages distinctly versus SMS messages… iMessages are the default protocol between Apple users)
Finally, on “monitoring” your kids… setup and require use of the Find Friends app. Add their iCloud email address to their contact information and then add them to the app. And remember I said use a simple to remember naming scheme for the iCloud addresses? That’s useful if you have to resort to using the Find my iPhone app to find a lost phone or remind a non-responsive kid…. having an easy to remember naming convention and password is useful!