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Why iOS needs support for multiple accounts

Kirk McElhearn | March 7, 2013
The Mac has had support for multiple accounts for years. Kirk McElhearn argues that iOS needs that support, too.

This new multiuser setup would entail some changes when it came to managing a shared iPad. On an iOS device that syncs with a specific computer running iTunes, the user accounts would perhaps have to be managed via a Web interface and an Apple ID. One user would still have to handle syncing. The computer would sync apps and media files, as it does now; but other data, such as contacts and bookmarks, would have to be stored on iCloud and managed via a Web browser or, perhaps, via a dedicated iCloud app designed for the purpose. iCloud (and Game Center) can already handle much of that data; the only new data would be home screen setups and app lists. To handle user accounts, third-party apps would have to hook into iCloud, too, but many of them already do this to store files or data.

To shield children from certain apps or content, the parent responsible for syncing the app would be able to choose which apps and which restrictions to apply to each child's user account; the effect would be similar to OS X's Parental Controls, and to the existing Restrictions settings in iOS.

Apple could even allow each user account to choose which media files it can sync and access. Imagine an app similar to Remote--which lets you control iTunes playback from an iOS device--that would let you choose which items to sync to your account on a shared iPad. You'd inevitably run into situations where one user would try to load all five seasons of Breaking Bad, but the iPad would already be full because another user had put three seasons of Downton Abbey on it; but to prevent space hogging, each user account could have a data-use limit--either a percentage of the device's total capacity, or a fixed amount.

Naturally, Apple would prefer that we just buy more iPads to serve each member of the household. But for people who can't afford the expense, the best way to make iPads more flexible is to allow each user to have his or her own account.


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