Recent research shows us that as high as 40 percent of iPhone owners keep their older phones around as a spare and an additional 20 percent give them to family members. With that many devices in the house, how one manages their accounts — and, more importantly, keeps track of their on-device purchases — can be a daunting task.
Here are some helpful tips for households faced with managing multiple Apple devices so they can stay on top of their iTunes purchases.
Limitations of a single iTunes account
iTunes accounts are limited to five authorized computers and ten iTunes in the Cloud devices. So what is the difference? The five authorized computers are capable of sharing their purchased iTunes content with other devices. You can ‘sync’ to an unlimited number of unmanaged devices like iPods or stream content to networked devices like the Apple TV using iTunes’ Home Sharing feature.
The ten other devices you can manage with a single iTunes account will all have access to your iTunes purchases through the cloud. Unfortunately this does not make for a total of fifteen devices, as authorized computers can also have access to iTunes in the Cloud and therefore will count against the ten devices.
The good news is that ‘dumb’ devices like traditional iPods (not iPod Touches) and even the Apple TV (which cannot download content locally) do not appear to be included in the count of ten. That’s also the case for any AirPlay enabled appliance or speaker you have that you want to use. You can have any number of these devices accessing your purchased content.
Managing devices and computers
The only way you can get to some of the iTunes’ account management features is via iTunes on either OS X or Windows. While you can add and remove each iOS device individually from an associated iTunes account, you cannot access a list of other associated devices from an iOS device. Hopefully this will change in future iOS releases as more and more people forgo computers altogether in favor of an iPad-only existence.
To access the account management features from within iTunes, first click on the iTunes Store button. From the “Home” page of the store, you will see an “Account” link listed under Account Links on the right side of the screen. Clicking on it will take you directly to a page that lists how many of the five computer authorizations there are on the account as well as how many of the ten devices are associated with the account.
While you can remove individual devices from your list of ten iTunes in the Cloud devices, you cannot perform the same task on your five authorized computers. You will only be able to access this feature once you have reached the maximum number of five authorizations. Often times having repairs done or even reinstalling the operating system can require you to re-authorize a computer a second time. Some times you get lucky and iTunes will recognize that the computer has already been authorized and not count it a second time. It is therefore always a good idea to deauthorize a computer before performing such tasks, if you can.
Multiple Apple IDs on each device
Something to keep in mind before you start associating multiple accounts on a single device is that your iTunes account is actually an Apple ID. Problems can arise when you have more than one Apple ID since Apple IDs cannot be merged. This problem is amplified when you start associating your Apple ID with online purchases. In the case of iTunes, those purchases remain forever bound to one Apple ID. Sometimes quite literally in the form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) as is still the case with most books, movies and of course apps.
Associating an iOS device with an iTunes account is accomplished from within the iTunes & App Store section of the Settings app. Be aware that switching a device’s iTunes account can result in all of your content being erased from the device. especially when the device is associated with an iTunes Match account. You may want to ensure that you have moved all of your content off of your device before you switch.
On both OS X and Windows this is done by selecting the “Authorize this Computer” menu item from the Store menu. This is where you add and remove your computer from the list of five authorized computers. Just keep in mind that it is when you sign in to the iTunes store on either OS X and Windows that your computer will be added to the list of ten “iTunes in the Cloud” devices. Only after signing in will you be able to download prior purchases.
Control iTunes spending
One technique to control iTunes spending is to set up an account without a credit card. This will not work once all of your devices are configured to use the same iTunes account you use to make purchases. If that is the case you will have to look at restricting the ability to make purchases on a device by device basis.
On iOS this means that you will need to enable restrictions which are found within the General section of the Settings app. Here you will be able to turn off in app purchases, disable the ability to install and delete apps, and even remove access to the iTunes and iBooks stores entirely from the device. For OS X and Windows, the iTunes parental controls are accessible from with the apps preferences menu.
iCloud’s relationship to iTunes
The Apple ID associated with an iCloud account that is used on a device does not have to be the same as the one used with iTunes on the same device. When it comes to iCloud mail, contacts, reminders, and notes, you can actually set up multiple iCloud accounts on each device. Each of the apps used to access this information is capable of supporting not only more then one account, but also more then one type of account. If you prefer, you do not even have to use your iCloud account for these particular services, just turn them off individually.
There are some features of an iCloud account that are useful even if you don’t want to use it for email. Photo Streams, Keychain Passwords, Safari Bookmarks and iOS Backups are such services but they are handled on a device by device basis. On OS X on the other hand is limited to one per logged in user account.
The method for configuring Find my iPhone on your devices has changed with iOS 7. It must now be associated with the primary iCloud account used on the device. In the past you were able to associate the Find my iPhone service with a secondary iCloud account, which allowed one to track all of your family’s devices from a single iCloud account. This is no longer possible.
Another iCloud service that is more app based is the ability to sync data between devices. The data is bound to a user account and accessed exclusively from within the app. What is fortunate is that you can actually store an app’s data in iCloud using a different Apple ID than the one that was used to purchase the app. This allows one to manage app purchases with one iTunes account, and the data used by the app with a different iCloud account.