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It’s Nice to Share: Family Sharing Your Apps

by Sarah Dobson on June 28, 2021

Apple’s Family Sharing provides features like a shared calendar, shared photo album, and shared apps from the App Store. We’ll look more deeply at how Family Sharing affects using apps on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (the concepts are similar on the Mac).

Installing Apps

With Family Sharing, when anyone in the family buys an app, Apple charges the credit card that’s associated with your Family Sharing group. But, before you buy an app, remember that you can download apps that other family members have purchased, with no additional charge. Start by checking that family members are sharing their apps. For each person, on their iOS device, tap Settings > Apple ID Name > Family Sharing > Their Name, and turn on Share My Purchases.

Finding other people’s apps is a little tricky. On your device, open the App Store app, tap Updates, and tap Purchased. On the Purchased screen, tap a family member’s name to see and download their apps. Developers can exclude their apps from this free sharing option, so if you don’t see an app, that might be why.

family sharing apps

Ask to Buy

With Ask to Buy, when a child tries to download an app or make an in-app purchase, a message appears, telling them to tap Ask.

Who counts as a child, and who gets to approve purchases? Initially, the approval task falls to the family organizer, but any adult in the group can handle it. For this to happen, the organizer should tap Settings > Apple ID Name > Family Sharing > Adult Name, and then turn on the Parent/Guardian switch. This is the same Family Sharing screen where you can add or remove children from Ask to Buy.

After tapping Ask, the child has two options:

  • Wait for an adult to authorize the request. An Ask-to-Buy notification should arrive on the adult’s iOS device within moments and can be found in Notification Center. (To open Notification Center, slide your finger down from the very top of the screen.) If approved, the app downloads immediately.
  • Bring their device to an adult. The adult can tap “approve it in person” at the top of the app’s App Store screen and follow the prompts.
family sharing apps

If the purchase isn’t authorized within 24 hours, the child will have to try again.

Hiding App Purchases

What if someone in your family bought an app that turned out to be a dud, or that everyone has outgrown? Or what if you bought an app but don’t want others to know about it? Take one or both of these actions:

  • Erase it from your device’s Home screen. Tap and hold its icon to see an X overlaid on the icon. Tap the X to delete it. Press the Home button when you’re done. This removes the app only from your device and doesn’t prevent others from downloading it.

    (To retrieve the app, just find it in the App Store and redownload it. You won’t be charged again.)
  • Zap it from your Purchased list. In the App Store app, tap Updates > Purchased > My Purchases. Slide left over the app name, and then tap the red Hide button. The app stays on your Home screen and in your App Store Updates list. However, other family members won’t see it when they try to download apps you’ve bought.
    family sharing apps

    (To restore a hidden app to your Purchased list, use iTunes on a Mac or Windows PC. In iTunes, near the top of the window but below the toolbar, click the Store button. At the right of the iTunes Store, click Account. Under iTunes in the Cloud, on the Hidden Purchases line, click Manage. At the upper right, click Apps to display your hidden apps; for those you want to bring back, click the Unhide button.)

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