Multi-User for the iPad or IPad 2 — Can You Share the iPad 2 with User Accounts?

May 5, 2011DavidiPad5

In these days of the interconnected family, and with the iPad and iPad2 being billed as devices for the entire family, I pondered whether or not there is some kind-of multi-user functionality for the iPad or the iPad2.    Unfortunately at the current time the answer is no.

Yes, you can add more than one email account, and yes you do have parental controls.  You can even password the device so your kids can’t use it without your permission.  But what you can’t to is section off parts of the iPad or basically create different user logins for the iPad or the iPad2.

For this significant limitation I am VERY disappointed at the folks at Apple.  I want to share the iPad with my family, but what if my small child wants to play Train Conductor 2: USA and accidentally (or not so accidentally) access my email?  It’s one thing if you are sharing an iPad2 with a spouse, who at least can not screw up your email (or can tell you if they pushed the wrong button), but without some kind of separate user control, sharing the iPad with the whole family becomes a potentially dangerous-for-your-data proposition.

Now the argument of course can be made, “Well if you are worried about your data, then don’t let your family use your iPad.”  Yeah.  Right.  YOU bring an iPad home and tell your kids that they can’t use it!  But in all seriousness, if Apple truly wanted to make the iPad a family device that can be shared, then I think they would have built in some kind of user account functionality.

And while I’m sure there will be some kind of user separating iPad app to come out, I’m not sure that I’d trust an app (as opposed to the operating system) to handle something as important as user accounts.  User accounts are generally something that you want hard-coded into your operating system, as issues such as resource and application sharing  become critical issues (can you both have Safari open at the same time? what about two instances of iTunes?).   Now add to that mess that additional problem of potentially having to sync two sets of user data (your contacts and your spouse’s contacts, for example) to two separate user accounts on OS X (or dare I say on Windows!).

So while I do understand that having multiple user accounts on a iPad does open quite a Pandora’s box of issues for Apple, for a $500 (minimum) device that’s designed for the family, I’d expect that there’d be some level of insulation attempted.  Even a $400 laptop  running practically any OS can have multiple user accounts (except OS X because there’s no such thing as a $400 Mac laptop).   Of course the 800lb gorilla in the room is that maybe Apple has no intention of making the iPad anything other than a personal device and would want me to just go out an buy two of them…..

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