written by: Spanner•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 1/13/2011
Apple keeps a tight grip on your wallet through iTunes, which is always ready to wipe content from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. But many people aren't aware that iTunes allows you to share games, apps, music and videos across devices, so long as they're all linked through one account.
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iTunes Account - Share iPhone Apps and Other Content
Despite Apple's iron hand when it comes to what you can and can't load onto your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad through iTunes, there's a feature of the multimedia gateway that's surprisingly liberal. Any downloaded or purchased content on iTunes can be synchronized, and essentially shared, across any number of devices -- so long as they're all linked to the same iTunes account. This will allow you to share iPhone apps, games and other content.
By signing your computer into an iTunes account, you can purchase and download music, videos, TV shows, games and applications onto the computer, and then synchronize it with your iDevice. The same is true in reverse, and any content acquired directly through the iPhone or iPod is transferred to the computer during the sync process.
You can also synchronize as many devices as you want with iTunes, and all the content from the different iPhones, iPods, iPads and the computer is replicated across the board without the need to purchase it again. This is particularly useful for families whose members each have their own iPod, iPhone or other Apple device. Buy once, and share the goods.
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Although you can have as many devices on an iTunes account as you want, you can only have five computers at any one time.
In the "Store" menu on iTunes is an option to "Authorize This Computer." After iTunes has been installed, you should click this option and sign into iTunes using the shared account, after which Apple will inform you how many computers are currently authorized. If you decide to set up a separate iTunes account for that computer, you should click the "De-authorize This Computer" option first, then re-register with Apple for the new account.
Should a computer go faulty, or be reformatted without first de-authorizing, however, the only option is to de-authorize all computers on that iTunes account. Apple only allows you to do this once every 12 months, so caution should be taken when authorizing computers, ensuring they're not going to take up a slot while rarely being used.
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One potential downside to sharing iTunes content across different devices and computers is that anyone linked to the account can spend its money. There are no controls over who can spend, or how much they can spend. If there's a credit card linked to the iTunes account, everyone's purchases will automatically be charged to that card.
Buying iTunes vouchers, rather than registering a credit card, is one option for minimizing this issue. All users will be able to spend any credit on the iTunes account without restriction, though the amount that can be spent is obviously limited to the available credit.
Having multiple users on the same account also increases the security risk, and the danger that the account details could be discovered by people who aren't intended to share the content. Once someone has access to the account, they can access the profile, change any details (such as the password) and spend any available money. Extra vigilance must be employed when sharing an iTunes account.
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Sharing an iTunes account is a great way to avoid buying content more than once. It allows you to share iPhone apps and other content, and is all within Apple's agreed terms and conditions, and is perfectly legal. Think of it as buying a DVD, and all sitting down together to watch it. Each person on the sofa isn't expected to buy the DVD before attending the family viewing, and this is the same principle behind sharing an iTunes account.
Just be sure you trust everyone who is brought into the account, and that your payment method is secure and agreed upon by everyone who's sharing.