Yes, You Can Share Your App Store Subscription With Family

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Key Takeaways

  • In-app purchases, including subscriptions, can now be shared like regular app purchases.
  • Up to six "family" members can share a single subscription.
  • Developers are happy because subscriptions are now more appealing.
Family Sharing on iOS 14 on iPhone and iPad

If you have a Family Sharing plan for all your Apple services, you can now share in-app purchases (IAPs) and subscriptions with family members. Third-party apps have to opt in to make the feature work, and many have already done so.

You’ve always been able to share app purchases, but now anything you pay for inside an app also can be shared, including subscriptions. IAP-sharing joins all the other Family Sharing services, like iCloud storage, TV and Arcade subscriptions, and Apple News+. This is a big deal, and can potentially save you a ton of money. But what about the developers? Aren’t they going to be out of pocket?

James Abeler, founder and director of Firecore, which makes the excellent video-playing app, Infuse, thinks not. 

"Family Sharing for subscriptions and in-app purchases is something many developers have been looking forward to since Apple rolled out expanded subscriptions at WWDC 2016," Abeler told Lifewire via direct message. "This is optional for developers, and while some may choose not to take advantage of this, there is no downside to having these new options available. Kudos to Apple for finally making it happen."

What Is Family Sharing?

Family Sharing works like this. One person, let’s say you, is the family organizer. You provide the credit card and buy the various Apple subscriptions, then choose to make these services available to up to six family members, who all get to use their own Apple IDs.

Sometimes you have to pick the family plan option. Apple Music, for example, is $9.99 for an individual, but $14.99 for families. Other services, like extra iCloud Storage, can just be shared. Any apps you buy will also be available to your family members, and now, in-app purchases—including subscriptions—are also included.

For sharing other IAPs, family members must first download the app from the "Purchased" section of the App Store, then open that app and find the option to restore purchases.

Developer Downsides

Despite Abeler’s enthusiasm, there’s one downside to this new addition, for developers at least. If you previously paid for multiple subscriptions of the same app, now you won't have to. Abeler’s app, Infuse, is a great example. It’s an iOS app for streaming and watching video from your own sources—locally-stored movies or TV shows in your Plex media server, for example. It’s so good that you might pay the $10-per-year sub for each family member.

And yet, Infuse is one of the first apps to offer shared subs. In fact, if you subscribe to an app that enabled subscription sharing, an alert will appear on your device to inform you.

"This is optional for developers, and while some may choose not to take advantage of this, there is no downside to having these new options available."

To understand this, think about how you, yourself, feel about multiple subscriptions. Do you have any? And if so, do you have any you don’t resent? If you’re used to being able to share regular app purchases, then having to pay multiple times for IAPs seems like nickel-and-diming.

This is especially annoying in recent years, as developers have moved to subscription models for their apps. It’s nice to be able to download and try an app for free before subscribing, but at least with an app purchased up-front, you can share it with others. Now, developers have another tool with which to tempt you to subscribe.

And subscriptions are important to developers, because they bring in ongoing revenue. With outright purchases, the customer pays once, and can then keep using the apps, and all their updates, forever. That leads to developers abandoning their apps when revenue dries up. So, these new shared subs are good for developers, and for users. A rare win/win.

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