Apple’s Family Sharing Slays Garage Band

David Sparks posted a great piece at his blog on New Year’s Day, “Quitting Family Sharing,” (http://macsparky.com/blog/2015/1/quitting-family-sharing). It describes the problems with Apple’s new iTunes “Family Sharing” program, where “child” accounts can be managed by a “parent” account and share some purchased content.

This point was the most prescient to me: “In-App Purchases Are Not Included.” As I read it, I realized it’s the problem I’m having with Apple’s own Garage Band app on the iPads and iPhones my son and I use.

I set up Family Sharing for Cole and I when Apple introduced it. And then in December, during the big Product (Red) promotion, I purchased the special loops that Apple was selling in Garage Band. It worked great for me on my devices, but on Cole’s devices, it’s another story.

When he opens Garage Band, instead of access to the loop library, he gets a button that says, “Restore Purchases.” (So his child account can apparently “see” that in-app purchases have been made by my parent account.) But when he taps on the button, he gets an error message that reads, “There are no purchases to restore at this time.” He cancels out of that, and is left with the “Restore Purchases” button blocking his access to the loops library. In other words, he can’t use Garage Band at all until he restores the loops purchase, but he can’t restore the loops purchase because his is a child account. It’s a “loop de loops!”

I spent over 3 hours (!) on the phone with Apple tech support, but they were completely unable to even identify the problem (and they actually just “accidentally disconnected” from me in the end and never called back).

But when I read Spark’s post the other day, I realized the problem is by Apple’s own design: Cole’s child account can’t access my in-app purchase. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to have taken that into account with Garage Band’s default behaviour and, as a result, when Garage Band is used on Cole’s child account its core functionality is effectively disabled.

So if even Apple can’t engineer a way around the bureaucracy of its own system, what hope do we have with Family Sharing? (Even worse, they can’t troubleshoot to recognize the problem even exists!)

I think it’s time for us to quit Family Sharing, too.