No – you can’t set up multiple users on an iPad

Many users

Can lots of people all use the same iPad?

Unlike on either a Windows or Mac computer, it is not possible to set up multiple users on an iPad. This is a shame. There must be many, many, families out there where Dad doesn’t want to see pastel-coloured unicorns or ponies (or any other colour of unicorns or ponies, for that matter), and little Teagan doesn’t care much for the Six Nations Rugby scores.

You may think that it’s because the machines are not powerful enough to keep track of multiple users or there isn’t enough storage space, but that’s unlikely to be the case as there is, in fact, a multi-user version of the iPad – but it’s only for schools. It allows different children in a class to share the same iPad. There isn’t even a multi-user version available for large enterprises with pockets deep enough to pay a premium for such a beast.

2 iPads

iPads aren’t designed to have several users

The only conclusion we can probably draw from this is that Apple don’t want to undermine potential sales of several iPads per household by making it easier to share a single device. But not every household can afford – or wishes to own – one iPad per person, so are there any ways of making it easier to share one device with only a single user account?

Email – one user could use the stock iPad email program, another the Outlook app, and another the Gmail app.

Browsers – if different users use dfferent browsers (such as Safari, Chrome, and Firefox) then each could save their own bookmarks (favorites) separate from those of other users

Social Media – each user just needs to remember to log out of their own account when they have finished, if they want to retain their privacy.

If several family members are sharing a single device then it might be an idea to create a special “family” Apple ID for that device. This would probably be cleaner than using one particular family member’s Apple ID (and better for privacy, as well). I have seen horrible complications (in the area of app updates, for instance) when just one person has two different Apple IDs. This could get very much messier if several members of a family sign in and out of the same device using their own Apple ID and then download apps under their own Apple ID. And signing in under a different Apple ID won’t help to keep one person’s iPad content separate from others’ content, anyway, so the situation is best avoided by using just one Apple ID that everyone understands is a shared account.

Galaxy Tab

Android tablets (such as this Galaxy) will happily host several users

Now, I think it best to confess that I haven’t actually seen these ideas put into action on a “family iPad”. After decades of IT experience, if there’s one thing I have definitely learned it is that all manner of things are fine in theory, but can get a lot more complicated when put into practice, and the only way to find out whether something really works is to try it.

Of course, there is another solution to all of this. Don’t buy an iPad: buy an Android device instead. Android devices allow you to create different users, with their own apps and content. To create a new user on an Android device:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Look for “Users” under the Device tab at the left of the screen
  • Click on “Add user or profile” and follow the instructions

Slightly off-topic, but I’d like to express one caveat about buying an Android tablet: don’t buy one with less than 32gb storage (and get more if possible). It’s all very well thinking that you’ve got virtually unlimited space because you can add micro SD cards, but many apps (and even their data) insist on being installed in main storage. This is, of course, exacerbated by all the junk apps that you don’t want but which can’t be uninstalled from Android devices. All of this leads to a small Android tablet running out of space very quickly.

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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