Why can’t Family Sharing include more than six people?

Apple imposed a seemingly arbitrary limit to prevent feature abuse.

Family sharing allows Apple to use to select up to six people in their family who can pool iCloud storage, share most apps, and view each other’s purchased media. It also allows parents to easily shape and monitor their children’s device usage, bringing greater safety and security.

But why is there a six-person limit? A Onefctv reader with six children recently wrote to explain how it affects his family after he tried to add his two youngest children:

I can’t now use device time controls because I can’t add them to my family. And I can’t stop my 20-year-old adult from giving way because he relies on signing up for Apple Music and sharing our apps. So I neglected the uns protected little children, which is unacceptable. How do I resolve this issue?

I need to keep in mind before going into the rest of it that you can turn on Time of Use on individual device groups and be associated with iCloud without using Family Sharing. That requires placing a PIN on each device or on one device in the set associated with iCloud and turning on Time of Use per device. It does not provide central management, but it does provide protection. (The Mac requires Catalina, the first version to include Screen Time.)

Sorry, there’s no solution to add more people to Family Sharing. Apple may have chosen six as a reasonable figure. Only about 1 percent of households in the U.S. have more than six, though that number includes both adults and children in one household.

And the company seems to limit the number and doesn’t set it to ten, as a combination of the licensing terms the company sets with app developers and music and video partners while preventing groups of people from sharing accounts to share items and reduce the revenue of Apple and its partners.

As for Apple’s credit, they don’t say, “Including the family.” Instead, they say more carefully, “Sharing in the family makes it easy for up to six family members to share…”

One solution: Take a Solomon-like approach and divide the family in two. No, not between each child, thank you, but choose one parent for one group of children to run Share their family and another parent for the other group. This doesn’t give you the same financial benefits when you don’t buy things twice, but it does allow General Usage Time management and sharing of some purchases.

As more and more apps turn to in-app purchases for subscriptions and other features, and in-app purchases are not shared as part of apps that allow Family Sharing (apparently most apps), today you see fewer benefits than shared apps in a family.

Apple may use another option for Family Sharing, which is subject in part to geo-verification. If you want to add a total of more than six people, you may have to choose to allow Apple to check from time to time —even in some heightened privacy obscured ways—that all devices are typically grouped around the same address.

Spotify uses its family accounts, which are only licensed for use by people residing at the same address. The company also regularly requires verification. Maybe that’s not the right approach.