A friend of mine asked me the following question today:

I’ve got two AppleIDs, username@gmail.com and username@icloud.com. The former I use for purchases, the latter for iCloud. Is there a way to merge these so I can start buying apps with the iCloud account; but don’t lose my existing purchases?

This used to be impossible, but thanks to Family Sharing this is now finally possible.

How it works

Let’s consider the current ecosystem: iCloud is the basis for Apple’s device integration going forward. You need it to sync data, you’ll need it for hand-off and continuity, and when HomeKit becomes widely available, your iCloud Account will connect all your devices, even when your outside. So it’s advisable to use your iCloud account as your main account on all your Apple devices.

Family Sharing means you link all AppleIDs in your family so they can each download the apps purchased by other family members. One AppleID is considered the Organizer, it holds the credit card and pays for all purchases not done via iTunes Store credits.

So in the scenario described above we decided to use the iCloud account as the Organizer, and add the Gmail App Store as a family member. This way my friend can use his iCloud account on all devices and sign in with a single AppleID, and go to App Store > Purchases > His other AppleID to download apps he bought previously.

mac-ios-setup-family-sharing

Setting it up

  • I used his Mac to setup Family Sharing across the two accounts: username@icloud.com and username@gmail.com.
  • First we logged both iCloud, App Store and iTunes into his username@icloud.com iCloud AppleID under his current admin account on the Mac.
  • Next we went to System Preferences > iCloud and enabled Family Sharing. We added his old username@gmail.com App Store account as a family member.
  • We need to accept this invitation with a user accounts that logged into the old App Store account. Instead of logging out of iCloud at this point, it’s easier to login as a guest user on the Mac. This way the Mac doesn’t need to resync all iCloud data after login in and out.
  • After you’re logged into the Guest user, go to iCloud, login with the old App Store ID, and accept the Family Sharing invitation.
  • All that’s left now is going to all the other devices and log out of the old account, and log in with the iCloud account where needed.

Possible Issues

Wrong iCloud Account

We ran into an issue after doing this — fully supported — procedure. After we logged into the App Store with the iCloud account we got the following error:

“This iTunes account is set up to use Family Sharing with a different iCloud account”

It’s a confusing error, but luckily it’s easily fixable:

  • On the iPhone go to iCloud > Family and click on the Organizer’s account
  • You’ll see that the mail address under Family Purchases won’t show the iCloud address, but rather the old AppleID.
  • Click on the email address and login with the iCloud account when prompted.
  • Reboot the iPhone.

No Apps Visible?

After you first login to the iCloud account in the App Store and select the old account under Purchases no apps will show up. If you wait 5-10seconds all apps will suddenly appear.

Result

What we end up with is one iCloud account configured as an username@icloud.com mail address. When you open the App Store under this Apple ID and go to Purchases, you’ll not only see the Apps bought with this AppleID, but also an entry for the old Apple ID, which allows you to download (and update!) all previously bought apps.

You can purchase new Apps with your iCloud account, but any updates to existing apps will be downloaded without any login prompts.