How to set up Google Family Sharing to share apps, books, movies, and more

At long last, nearly all of your Google Play purchases can be shared with up to five other members of your Android-loving family.

The Google Play Family Library comes nearly two years after Apple debuted a similar offering for those on iOS. Its absence on Android has likely been a source of frustration for those who may have had to buy an app twice so their spouse, child, or another family member could also enjoy it.

Fortunately Google’s option is a solid one, even if it’s a bit tardy. It offers a fair amount of customization and controls over what gets tossed into the family pool, so you can ensure the little ones don’t aren’t freaked out by a gory battle scene from Game of Thrones

Getting started

You can sign up on the web or inside the Google Play app on your Android phone or tablet. Head to Account > Family and touch the Sign up button.

The Google Play family library promises to offer a simple method of sharing purchases.

The next step is to choose a credit card that will serve as the payment method for everyone in the family. Google says you’ll get an email for each purchase so you can keep tabs on who is buying what. You’re also able to set up some approval safeguards after the initial setup process so no one goes wild and drains your account on in-app upgrades.

Set your content free

To eliminate confusion, I recommend adding all eligible purchases. Otherwise you’ll have to hunt and peck through your catalog and share content with the family one at a time. The caveat is this makes everything you’ve bought available, so if there’s a ton of content you don’t want the children to have, then it’ll be best to select it one at a time.

Add some or all of your purchases apps, games, movies, TV shows, and books to your family library.

You then can invite your family members. Each person must be 13 or older, live in the same country as you, and not be a member of another family. They’ll also need their own Google account. 

Unfortunately you can’t create a child account, like you can with Apple’s plan. If you want to use an Android tablet or hand-me-down phone specifically for a child to play with, your best option is to sign in with your own account and follow our guide to make it kid-friendly.

Round up the family

Now it’s time to select who gets the golden tickets. Your frequent contacts will be at the top of the list, but once you type names Google Play will also autosuggest names from your contacts.

Add up to five others to your family.

When someone accepts your invite, you’ll get an email notification. Same goes when somebody makes a purchase on your family card. The good news is they can use their own gift or credit card instead, so if you’re sharing your account with other adults you could always gently request they make more expensive purchases on their own.

Additionally, you can require your approval before any content or in-app upgrade is purchased. In the Family Manager settings you can customize this for each individual. 

Share away

Every member of your family will have a new section inside their Play Store that details all the apps that have been added to the family account. All they have to do is select that app, game, movie, TV show, or book and download it.

Sharing, not surprisingly, doesn’t apply to in-app purchases. So everyone is on their own to boost their Clash of Clans capabilities.

Your family members will be able to enjoy the spoils of your past purchases.

There are a few nuances to note, however. If you buy a movie bundle, only the bundle in its entirety gets shared: you can’t pick and choose individual movies.  

When you go to buy something else, you’ll see the icon to denote it can be applied to the family library. You can also pull out of the pool things you don’t want, though this can get a little tedious as you have to hunt them down.

New apps that can be added to the family library will include the icon. Previous purchases can be opted out by flipping the switch, so your children aren’t freaked out by murderous Vikings.

Also, keep in mind you’re not totally limited to Android. Google Play Movies and Play Books have dedicated iOS and browser versions. Play Movies of course works well on Android TV and Chromecast, though you’ll need to use AirPlay with an Apple TV.

Take time to poke around so you can make it fit your own group. From the settings you can also delete someone from the family if they’ve aged out of your household or have just been plain naughty.

IDG Insider


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