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How to share apps, videos, games, and more with your family on Android

how to share apps music and other content on android family header
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Looking for a way to share the Android apps you bought on your Google account with your wife? Maybe you’d like to open up some of your movie library to your kids, or gift a book you enjoyed to your brother? Fortunately, Google’s Family Library for the Play Store allows you to do exactly that, letting you share purchased content with up to five other people.

The feature rolled out last summer in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. Here’s a guide to help you get started sharing purchases.

Create a family group

Google has made the whole setup process incredibly simple. You can create a family group either through the web or through your Android device. When you create a family group, you become the family manager. You can only be a part of one family group, but when you’ve created one you can invite up to five other members to join via email. If you subscribed to the Google Play Music Family Plan, then you may already have created a family group.

First head over to the Google Play Store on an Android device or on the web — you can access the sign up portal by clicking this link, or just go to Account > Family > Sign up for Family Library. There should be an option to “Sign Up” at the bottom of the page — that means the service is available in your region and with your account.

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Once you tap Sign up, you’ll be told you need to be 18 or older to create an account, as you will become the family manager. Anyone you invite into the group has to be in the same country as you, aged 13 or over, and they will also see your email address and the profile photo associated with your Google account. Hit Continue, and take out your wallet because you need to set up a shared payment method for the Family Library.

family credit card
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Don’t worry, you can set it so that you have to approve purchases made by other members on the family card. If a family member has their own card set up already, they can still make purchases with it. Once you tap Accept, you’ll be able to start adding content to your Family Library.

family library content
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Before we jump into adding content, you should know that there are two caveats. The first is that developers have to “accept” Family Library for their app. While all apps are eligible, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to share all of your purchased apps since the developer has to enable the feature. As you can see in the image above, you can add all eligible purchases in the setup process so that you don’t have to find and do them one-by-one.

The second caveat is that apps purchased after July 2, 2016 are automatically eligible for you if the developer has accepted the feature — but anything purchased before that date is still left in the hands of the developer. So if you bought an app last year, you’ll have to cross your fingers and hope the developer allows it to be shared — you can view this option on the app’s store listing. Google suggests that developers allow prior purchases to be shareable, but it’s not enforced, so you may be out of luck with some purchased content and apps.

Once you tap Continue to add all your eligible purchases, you can then enter the email addresses of five people you want to invite to your group.

family email
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Remember, they need to be aged 13 years or older and need a Google account. Hit Continue, and you’re all set — the members will receive an email to join your group. You’ll then see a page with a variety of apps and content that are already eligible to be added to your shared Family Library, if you want to purchase them.

google play family library
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Managing your Family Library

To add family members to your Library, head over to Account > Family (or Family group on the web) > Manage family members. You should see an option to “Invite family members.” When you tap it, you may be asked to input the security code of your credit card associated with the Play Store account. Once you type that in, you’ll be able to see your contacts and pick additional people to invite if you didn’t reach the limit earlier.

Tap on a family member’s name to control how they can add to the Family Library. You have three options:

  • Require your approval for all paid content.
  • Require your approval for in-app purchases.
  • No approval required.

If the family member is over the age of 18, you will not be able to choose the first option. Again, this is only if they are using the shared family payment method to purchase content.

family library
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If you head to Account > Family > Family Library settings, you can manage how content is shared for Apps & Games, Movies & TV, and Books. In each of these categories, you have two options. You can either “add items automatically when purchased,” or you can choose to manually add items yourself — it applies for prior and future purchased apps and content. This is helpful if you do not want to share specific content with your children, for example.

You can also remove all your items from your Family Library here, if you wish.

If you ever want to change the shared payment method for your Family Library, head over to Account > Payment methods > Change family payment method, and you’ll get the option to choose from any other cards you have added. If you want to add a new one, tap the floating action button on the bottom right (the plus sign), and add a new method of payment.

Accessing shared content

Now, if you opted to automatically add all purchased content to your Family Library, you should see them appearing in your Play Movies & TV, Play Books, and Play Apps & Games — that is, if the content is eligible.

To manually do it, you’ll have to sift through your content yourself. For example, if you purchased Monument Valley and want to share it with your Family Library, go to the app’s Play Store listing. You’ll see an option like the one in the image below.

Tap on the Family Library toggle to add it. Now, anyone in your group should be able to install the app either by visiting the store listing, or by heading to My Apps & Games > All. The same applies for content purchased through Play Movies & TV and Play Books. Head over to the respective app or website and tap on each book, movie, or TV show to add it to your Family Library. More often than not, you may see something like this:

Google Play Family Library
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But if you have eligible content and add it, it will show up in your library with a blue icon, a heart shape inside a house:

family library books
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If you’re a family member, not a manager — you’ll see a description indicating that the family manager has added a specific app or movie to the Family Library, and you’ll be able to install it or play it immediately. For Apps & Games, there’s a handy “Family Library” section that will pop up when you open the Play Store and head to My Apps & Games. It sits right next to Installed, and All. It doesn’t look like this section is available for the family manager.

And that’s more or less it. Family Library is only effective if a large number of apps and content are eligible, so it’s up to developers and content providers to accept and implement the feature. Since it just launched, there’s not much available off the bat, but hopefully, that will change as it becomes widely used.

Connecting to your Google Play Music Family Plan

If you own a Google Play Music Family Plan, following the same steps above automatically connects the Library to the group, so any eligible purchases made in Google Play will automatically be shared to everyone on your Music Family Plan. If you, as the family manager, are subscribed to the Google Play Music Family Plan, everyone in your family group has access to Google Play Music.

Not available for you yet? Share a Google account

If Family Library is not available for you yet but you really want to share content, the only option you have is to share a Google account. Most parents already probably do this with young kids if they have their own tablets. It means logging into the same Google account on all family devices. That way, all the content you buy will show up on every device. Unfortunately, it also means that everything else will be shared, including contacts and messages.

Technically, you could set up a Google account expressly for the purpose of sharing content. You can add additional Google accounts to your Android device via Settings > Accounts > Add account. There doesn’t seem to be a hard limit to the number of devices you can log into the same Google account from. However, this is definitely against Google’s terms of service, so we don’t recommend it.

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Simon Hill
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Simon Hill is an experienced technology journalist and editor who loves all things tech. He is currently the Associate Mobile…
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