I have a problem. Well, to be accurate, I have lots of them — but today I’m talking about one in particular: having multiple Apple IDs.
I entered the Apple system about 17 years ago, in the days before iCloud and the App Store. I was also a foolish child back then — and my decisions from that time still haunt me in the shape of two separate Apple IDs.
One email — which I no longer have access to — is connected to my iTunes and App Store purchases, the other to iCloud.
Of course isn’t an overwhelming issue. Everything works, after all. But it is ungraceful. I mean, there could well be purchases on both? And files? I’m neither clairvoyant nor motivated enough to find out for certain.
The issue rears its head with particular force whenever I get a new Apple product. Most recently, this was my new MacBook Pro. It means I have to sign in to a couple of addresses and try and remember which email does what. It fills me with the opposite of joy.
On paper, solving this should be simple. Why don’t I just merge the Apple IDs? Well, come closer, let me tell you a secret: you can’t.
Merging Apple IDs is impossible. And it’s unlikely to ever change.
What?! Why the hell is merging Apple IDs impossible?
From all my reading, there are two overarching reasons: security and complexity.
Let’s assume for a moment that someone accesses your Apple ID. If merging accounts was something you could easily do, a hacker could potentially gain access to all your data, documents, and apps, and fold them all into an address they own.
This would make it infinitely trickier to wrestle back control of your account — especially as it wouldn’t technically exist any more.
Then, we have the technical side.
A single Apple ID can hold documents, downloads, app data, personal information, contacts, and, well, anything else digital you can imagine. Merging all this is far from simple.
To illustrate the complexity, let’s look at one single thing: app data.
Let’s say each of the two Apple IDs you’re trying to merge contain the same app. How would merging this work? You can’t just mush two different user profiles and personal data into a single entity and expect it to function properly.
Even if you take something relatively simple like Netflix — that just contains cloud-hosted profiles — the technical challenge of combining multiple viewer accounts into a single experience would require a bespoke solution.
And that’s just a simple example. Imagine throwing iCloud encryption, data laws from different regions, and national software regulations into this mix.
Like almost everything in life, what appears simple on the surface is actually mind-bogglingly complex when you look closer.
So what are your options for merging Apple IDs?
The problem is these options are fiddly and inelegant. Let’s remember that final term.
If you tried to sum up Apple’s approach to its products and services with a single word (besides “money,” of course), “elegance” would be a good shout.
The company makes sleek products that interoperate slickly. A significant part of sales strategy is making things as seamless as possible to its users. You have an iPhone and want a wearable? Try the Apple Watch! Need a computer? Throw in a MacBook — and so it goes on and on.
Not being able to merge Apple IDs is the opposite of this seamlessness.
Look, we know by now there are security and complexity concerns, but are you telling me a trillion dollar company couldn’t solve them? One that allows you to access your bank accounts via face scans? And is trusted enough to have its own payment infrastructure?
I have no doubts Apple could make merging IDs a thing. Even if it needs a proper verification process akin to opening a bank account.
Don’t get me wrong, I know why it doesn’t: it would entail a huge outlay for a problem most people don’t care about — but, on the other hand… please? For me?
It’s frustrating. It’s messy. And all I want is freedom.
So, Apple, please just let me merge my Apple IDs into one super account. I’ll do a little dance for you and everything.
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