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Family Sharing and iCloud storage/Drive are broken!

UnhappyFamily Sharing and iCloud storage/Drive are broken!

If there is an afterlife, I have a bad feeling that if Steve Jobs is there, and somehow reads this, it will start him spinning, possibly in not so silent rage. You see, one of the apocryphal stories of Steve concerns the launch of MobileMe, and its accompanying storage service, iDrive. Steve (like many Apple customers, apparently) didn't know what MobileMe was supposed to do and -- when told what it was supposed to do -- went into a bit of a rage about it not actually doing what it was supposed to do.

iCloud was supposedly the answer to whatever Steve's question was. Actually, I didn't have too many problems with MobileMe, and actually used iDrive as a very effective cloud storage service well before the likes of DropBox, Google Drive, Oxygen Cloud, SkyDrive etc managed to get their respective acts together. So, I was rather sad when iDrive was dropped, and I've shifted to DropBox for essentially the same services.

More recently, however, iCloud became a little more insidious, so I've been using that for iLife document storage, along with storage for a number of other apps that play best when their data is stored on iCloud. So, until iOS 8 and OSX 10.10, iCloud became a very convenient way of storing documents within a family, as well as ensuring all my family members had access to the same music, apps, photos etc. To do this, we simply shared my Apple ID for iCloud. It was really, really simple. I had control over my daughter's spending on apps because, basically, I controlled the iTunes Store password.

That's no longer the case with iOS 8 and Yosemite; each family user must have their own Apple ID, and the sharing of apps, music and photos is enabled through Family Sharing. We each have our own iCloud storage; my daughter and my wife have the default 5Gb, and I still have the 500Gb we were sharing before. Except we can't "share" my iCloud storage any more! Some common files we used to use in Numbers and Pages are no longer files that each of us could edit and update -- now, we email the updated files to each other, creating obvious version control issues. Guess we'll take those to DropBox! The same goes for the Day One holiday journal we take delight in keeping up to date on holiday trips. Please don't let me be the one who always has to keep that updated -- my photo captions are boring! And the very good Car Logbook app, that my wife and I use religiously, and our accountant constantly praises. DropBox again, methinks!

So, as you can gather, not happy with the effect on our family of Family Sharing.

But the biggest PITA has come with iCloud Drive, or iCloud storage -- call it what you will. Chances are, if each member of your family has at least an iPhone and an iPad, the default 5Gb of iCloud storage will be insufficient for the online back-ups. And there's no way you can re-allocate the 500Gb that, say, the family organiser has for the others to store back-ups on. So, after tearing your hair out for a while, you'll conclude there's only one thing to do: buy them some more storage. And this is where Steve would seethe: logically, you'd think that the additional iCloud storage could be purchased by each family member, approved by the family organisers, and charged against the iTunes account of the family organiser (as is the case for other purchasers under Family Sharing.

You'd be wrong!

Additional iCloud storage must be purchased against the Apple ID for the device user, NOT the family organiser. That means I have to provide my credit card details against my daughter's Apple ID. And, once I do that, she has carte blanche (no, she is trustworthy, but you see how Family Sharing just broke).

Now, I know you are thinking there's a workaround to this, and it involves me, as the family organiser, simply buying an iTunes Gift Card using my iTunes account, giving it to my daughter so that she can buy the storage. Such a simple solution, BUT IT DOESN'T WORK!! (Sorry for shouting, but I'm sure you understand) You see, there's no option to use an iTunes Gift Card when a user wants to pay for additional storage; you must use a credit card. So that's iCloud storage broken.

Yes, I have had quite some animated conversations with Apple Support regarding this; indeed, it is supposedly "being escalated", but I've heard nothing for two days now. This one clearly isn't on their support scripts, so they tend to get into an endless loop of asking me to enter my credit card details against my daughter's Apple ID, and I keep telling them why I shouldn't need to do that.

As Steve Jobs famously asked the MobileMe dev team "what is it supposed to do?", I now ask the Family Sharing/iCloud storage team the same question, and follow it up with "well, why doesn't it do it?!"


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