Apple ID Split for Older Boomer Couple Who Likes Everything Together - HELP

So my parents are in their 70s and share EVERYTHING: 1 email address, 1 photo album, 1 calendar. Up until now they’ve also just used 1 Apple ID but with the Watch and health issues that is not working.

So splitting into two accounts is easy, but how do I recreate their sharing set up?

  • Email: Google, ok put that on both sets of devices
  • Calendar: Move off iCloud to Google and on both devices
  • Media (movies, music) - irrelevant they each have spent <<$100 at Apple so worst case we re-buy or family plan one new iCloud account onto the existing one

But photos… Is there any sort of auto sharing? Is it possible to sign an iPhone into a second iCloud account for photos? I’m not thrilled with the idea of using Google Photos because they have ~20 years of albums set up on Apple Photos and things parceled out into certain albums, etc.

Any ideas?

AFAIK Apple still doesn’t offer a solution.


You could leave the photos on one account, and use “Shared Albums” to share the photos with the other account.

No help on photos, I’m afraid. But for calendar, do you really beed to switch to Google?

You can create a shared iCloud calendar and make it the default calendar for both of them. Voila, new entries will go into the shared calendar for both of them to see and edit.

Perhaps not re calendar but since they use Gmail for their email (already) if their calendar was accurate both on the Web AND their Mac and their I-devices it seems better.

Sadly this is not really viable. Their computer capability is low, they rely on putting things in lots of albums on their Mac, one shared album won’t work AND having to “do work” when a photo gets taken seems so broken.

You can share every album, and the “work” is just a drag and drop into the right album, what seems to be done already, if they use “a lots of albums”.
And maybe there is even a way to automate that e.g. with Shortcuts…

I think shared albums is the method Apple expect people to use for family photos. Google has a partner sharing feature which allows two users to share a common library (only for certain face groups or from a certain date too if required).

For calendars, the shared calendar feature of iCloud calendars should be ok.

For media, a family plan should work to avoid re-buying any media. Should also allow sharing any subscriptions they may have.

Re: Shared albums if you go down that route, keep in mind that photos in shared albums are being shared in lower resolution (still good enough for all uses but it’s not the original resolution).

What my wife and I currently do:

  • Shared Apple ID on our phones. We both login to the same account in Settings, but we turn off the majority of syncing except for Photos.
  • In Apple Watch app, Messages, FaceTime, we sign-in using our individual Apple IDs.

The benefits are we have a single shared photo library, calendars, etc…, and can still use Apple Watch features, iMessage, and FaceTime, separately.

The negatives are you lose some of the syncing. We don’t both want the same list of contacts, so I have those setup through a separate Google Account, so we don’t lose them if we lose our phones. Same for Health, etc… You can’t sync that data with this method otherwise you’d have a ton of weird stats between the two of you.

Overall I’m fine with this. I barely use any of the Health features, and my wife doesn’t use many of the other features like Safari Tab syncing, or Reminders, so it works out well enough for us.

Another option is to switch to Google everything, and migrate their photos to Google Photos. Then you can have proper shared libraries, and manage it all with separate IDs.

Do you share icloud drive as well? It seems like an interesting strategy because you could just sign in for the other services separately. One of the pitfalls is that you wouldn’t be able to use imessage in icloud or have separate icloud drives.

Yep, we share iCloud Drive as well. This actually has some benefits because we can share Drafts usage and get access to each other’s notes for lists, etc…

Yea, that is a downside. There aren’t any “backups” of her messages “in the cloud” should we ever need to wipe her phone. Luckily we haven’t had to do that. We have just restored from phone to phone and it’s been fine.

You should be able to make a Backup also on the Mac, earlier Versions via iTunes, and Today via Finder.

I’ve done this for many clients (especially my older ones). It’s a PITA to set up, and there usually is no way to exactly replicate the original conditions after the new change. I often get called in because a crisis (something’s no longer working or a new device/feature isn’t compatible) has forced the issue.

Sharing Apple IDs is a bad idea because Apple does not expect it and therefore at any time it can break. It’s no fun dealing with this problem when you’re under pressure.

For most of my clients, I strongly recommend keeping things as simple as possible – which usually translates to using as few services as possible. Here’s the usual set-up:

Email: whatever they’re currently using. If they need a new email address, consider using Apple’s email services.
Calendar: Apple, with shared calendar(s) as needed
Notes: Apple
Contacts: Apple
Messaging: Apple’s Messages app, to combine Apple’s service with SMS

If a client lives strongly in the Google universe, then all of the above should be Google. But under most circumstances, choosing a mix of providers for these core services is not worth the complexity. (The problem with complexity comes into play when you’re trying to troubleshoot something. Doubly so when you’re trying to troubleshoot for someone else, and triply so when you’re trying to troubleshoot for someone else remotely.)

The pain points are sharing Contacts and Photos. There are no good solutions; Apple expects each individual to have their own Apple ID and to share data on a piece-by-piece basis.

For contacts, this is okay. Once you get the contacts data set up on the new device, the changes are infrequent enough that simply Air-Dropping any new contact info is sufficient.

For photos, this is not great. Shared albums are the only way to go, but as someone else already pointed out, shared album images are not the same quality. Honestly, these days it’s usually pretty difficult to tell that they’re reduced quality until you zoom in a lot, but it’s still annoying. The work required to share photos this way is negligible if they’re already using albums. The only difference is they move photos to a shared album instead of a “regular” one. (Once the original sharing of albums is set up, of course. Which isn’t difficult to do.)

Photos is where I get the biggest pushback. But I can say that there’s often one person who sees the benefit of not having their phone filled with “irrelevant” images that their partner took in order to remember something. It’s a small but tangible benefit.

Once you’ve decided where all the data is going, the next step is getting it there. This is much easier to do if you’ve got a computer, and even easier if you’ve got a Mac. In fact, if there is no Mac available, it’s worth it to borrow one temporarily just to handle the Contacts data. Makes it so much easier.


First – thanks, this is a fantastic, clear (and concise!) explanation. Much appreciated.

Second, this:

resonates so much. Every couple I know seems to have one person who take a lot more photos than the other, not all of them necessarily worth sharing. That person is usually also the one who wants All The Photos – their own and their partner’s…

Can you clarify how you do this because watch/health is one reason we want to split things up? I think this sounds like what my parents want to do.

Sure. :blush:

  1. Sign-in 1st iPhone to iCloud shared account. For this one I leave everything checked to sync. This is the primary iPhone, so it doesn’t matter that everything is turned on. It matters more for the secondary user.
  2. Sign-in 1st Watch to iCloud shared account. Again, this watch will use the primary account, and sync everything up with it.

This is where things get more granular:

  1. Sign-in the 2nd iPhone to iCloud shared account.
    • Here you’re going to want to uncheck any services you don’t want to sync together inside the “Settings > Apple ID > iCloud” settings page.
    • We turn off Safari, Contacts, Messages in the Cloud, Health, Wallet, etc…
    • But leave on Photos, iCloud Drive, Home, iCloud Backup, etc…
  2. Turn off “Calls on Other Devices” in Phone settings. This usually defaults to “ON” which means both phones will get each other’s calls.
  3. Create new 2nd iCloud account for iMessage, FaceTime, and Watch.
  4. Assign new ID to 2nd iPhone in Messages.
    • Go into “Settings > Messages > Send & Receive”.
    • In here you should see a list of all #'s this phone can send & receive iMessages to.
    • You can tap on the Apple ID and select “Sign Out”.
    • Then you can sign-in with the new Apple ID.
  5. Assign new ID to 2nd iPhone in FaceTime. Same process as Messages, but in the FaceTime settings.
  6. Assign new ID to Watch. This is where it gets a little more tricky.
    • You will need to pair the watch as “new”. (I don’t believe this works when importing the old watch backup.)
    • When setting the watch up with the 2nd iPhone, it will try to auto-login with the primary Apple ID account. Say no to this, so that it’s not signed in.
    • Complete the setup.
    • Once the watch is functional, you should be able to go into the Watch app on the iPhone
    • Then select “General > Apple ID” and sign-in with the “secondary” iMessage account.

You should now be setup as best as possible (as I can figure) for sharing an Apple ID with a single Photos library.

This is pretty much my only gripe with Apple IDs right now. I really hope they offer the ability to share a single photos library for those of us who want that. Seems like all they’d have to do is offer the ability to sign-in to a separate Apple ID, like you can with iMessage and FaceTime. :man_shrugging:t2:

Anyway, good luck. :blush:

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Speaking as half of a Boomer couple where almost everything is shared (mail is separate), once you add a second Apple ID you set up Family Sharing for the pair of IDs. Then:

  • Email – not an issue with IMAP accounts since their contents can be viewed from multiple devices.
  • Calendar – even with iCloud you can have multiple calendars per account and share any calendar with another account. So we have one for each of us and one for both of us, and we both can see all of them.
  • Reminders and Notes – you didn’t mention these but these can be shared just like calendars, in iCloud.
  • Media – No real solution to this. We have a server computer here that shares things, but not practical for most non-technically sophisticated people.
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Thanks this is fantastically helpful, I’m convinced there is a missing book about “how to” with apple IDs. Will try this.

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I would buy that book right away…
I made the mistake a lot of years ago, to use different AppleID´s on the Appstore and the iCloud, and be now not be able to redo that. :smiling_face_with_tear:

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