Apple is discontinuing support for iTunes Allowances, the feature that allowed parents to send monthly credits to a recipient’s – meaning, their child’s – Apple ID for use in the iTunes Store. That allowance could then be spent on music, videos, apps or books, as the child desired. Now, according to an update to the iTunes Allowances support page on Apple’s website, the feature is being shut down, and existing allowances will cancel on May 25, 2016.
That means the installment payments will no longer be delivered after that date, but the unused credit will not actually disappear. Apple says that credit will remain in the recipient’s account until it’s used.
Allowances were useful for parents who wanted a way to control spending and set limits on what their kids could buy from the iTunes Store every month. And they offered a nice alternative to having to constantly deal with nagging kids, begging for new apps and games.
With the feature’s shutdown, Apple is directing customers to use “Family Sharing” instead. Introduced in 2014, Family Sharing lets up to six people share media purchases, including iTunes music, movies, TV shows, books and apps, without having to share accounts. The idea is that purchases could be paid for using one credit card, while parents could also approve kids’ spending requests from their own devices.
In addition to sharing media, the feature can also be used to share photos, a family calendar and more between devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac. It requires iOS 8 or later; OS X Yosemite or later; and iTunes 12. PC users can also take advantage of the feature via iCloud for Windows.
One of the more useful aspects to Family Sharing versus iTunes Allowances is that it permits kids under 13 to have their own Apple IDs, as they’re managed as part of the family group. Organizers can also limit access to content on their kids’ devices using iOS’s “Restrictions” or OS X and iTunes’ parental controls.
However, the feature still needs improvement in other areas. Namely, it doesn’t support in-app purchases, which is a common request from kids. (iTunes Allowances did.). Some parents also find it frustrating to have to manually approve every iTunes purchase request, too. But that’s because they may not realize the “Ask to Buy” option can be disabled for kids and other members.
MacRumors first spotted the feature’s shut down, noting that Apple customers were being informed of the closure via email. While Apple didn’t give an official reason for ending iTunes Allowances, it makes sense. There’s no need for both options, given how much overlap there is between the two services.