Hoping Apple Puts Family First

I’m not sure what Apple will announce at its 2013 WWDC Keynote later today, but I suspect the thing at the top of my list is probably not at the top of theirs: significantly more robust multi-user account support throughout iOS.

This is a need that has been sorely felt for some time. To describe it in more detail, I’d break it down into two parts.

First: allow more than one user to login to an iOS device — if not iPhones, which are admittedly intensely personal, then iPads, which are heavily shared devices. Two years ago I called iPads “post-personal computers,” because I saw that they were being readily passed around within households. Since then, I’ve only come to see more of that kind of real world usage. Adding support for those use cases strikes me as not only necessary, but also an opportunity for Apple to gain a meaningful competitive edge over other mobile platforms, which still think in terms of user accounts and not in terms of real usage patterns.

The second part is: allow users to combine their Apple IDs. This is something that I also happened to write about two years ago in a post titled “Multiple User Account Disorder,” and the situation remains unimproved. The gist of it is that people inadvertently create multiple Apple IDs all the time, then find themselves needing to combine them — but Apple has no facility to make that happen, even if you call tech support and elevate your predicament to the highest-ranking and most sympathetic support supervisor you can find. Fixing this problem will relieve untold confusion for many, many users, especially those who are less adept at negotiating the technicalities of having multiple accounts.

I complain that these two elements have not budged much in two years, but that’s not entirely true. In the second half of last year, Apple shipped a modest update to its Apple TV software, which ostensibly runs on iOS, that allows a family to add more than one Apple ID to that device. It’s a bit kludgy, because it requires that users trudge back to the Apple TV’s settings each time they want to switch to a different ID, but I’m hoping it’s a start.

  1. Sigh. You named two of the three things that were at the top of my list as well (the third being the ability to decide what images I want in my Photostream).

    The bookshelf is annoying, but it can at least be stuffed away and ignored—along with the other “mandatory” apps I never use—on some never-visited back page that functions like an iAttic.

    So disappointing that Apple chose to focus on the window-dressing instead of the window.

  2. You can do this with Win8 tablets. I can easily give my surface or even my laptop to a family member, have them log in, and they get their apps and saved preferences automatically appear.