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Merging Apple IDs still not possible. Now what?

TUAW reader Glenn Thorpe wrote about Apple ID problems:

"I recently upgraded to iOS 6 as recommended and I am now faced with some challenges when using FaceTime and Messages.

"My Apple ID account which I use to download apps cannot be used for FaceTime nor Messages. I had to create new AppleIDs for both of these applications. The frustrating issue is that I now have three AppleIDs to manage and I am not sure of what impact this will have when I buy apps or try to perform other transactions.

"Please advise me if I can somehow consolidate these IDs or will I be able to use my original ID again for all of my apps."

This has been a long-standing problem, made worse by the advent of iCloud.

A year ago there were rumors that Apple was working on a way to merge Apple IDs, and Tim Cook was reported to have called someone who had complained about the problem and said "we are aware of this issue and are working on it."

Well, as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. When I wrote about this a year ago, I noted that Apple's AppleID FAQ said "At this time, Apple IDs cannot be consolidated." This led some people to speculate that Apple would be announcing a way to consolidate Apple IDs.

Today that page says "Apple IDs cannot be merged."

Maybe Apple is still working on this, but a year has passed, a new version of iOS has been released, this problem has still not been addressed, and the only official word we have from Apple has changed from "This can't be done yet" to "This can't be done." I think it is a much safer assumption to make that Apple either tried to figure out a way to do this and couldn't make it work, or that Apple has simply given up because it had bigger things to worry about. Either way, don't hold your breath.

My Apple ID history

I created my first Apple ID back when the iTunes Music Store first opened. It was just a username, not an email address, and even though I had an email address associated with it, the email address was completely unrelated to my Apple ID username.

With the advent of MobileMe, Apple started moving people towards using their email address as their Apple ID, but it was not required. Eventually it was no longer possible to create an Apple ID that was just a username, and finally we arrived at the point where an Apple ID which is not an email address cannot be used for some features such as iCloud or Messages.

Somewhere along the line I managed to create a second Apple ID which was username@mac.com and I thought that meant they were interchageable. Unfortunately I was wrong, these were considered completely separate Apple IDs and caused no small amount of frustration and confusion. I continued to use my username for iTunes/App Store purchases and used username@mac.com for those services which required an email address.

However, in light of my recent iCloud debacle (which was never solved and the AppleCare rep I was working with stopped returning my calls and emails), I decided that it was time to stop fighting Apple and just stick to one Apple ID. Fortunately I have never used iCloud for email, so dropping that email address was not that big of a deal. Not everyone will be so lucky. However, if you still need to use that Apple ID for email you can add it under "Mail, Contacts, Calendars."

Your 'username' Apple ID can be updated to an email address

I liked having an Apple ID that wasn't an email address, and I wanted to keep it that way. I kept hoping that Apple would make it easier to use, but they have made absolutely no movement in that direction.

In fact, if you have an Apple ID which is not an email address, Apple will strongly suggest that you change it. I resisted this for a long time, but finally gave in.

Here is how to change your "username" Apple ID to be an email address:

  1. Go to http://appleid.apple.com.

  2. Select "Manage Your Apple ID."

  3. Log in with your Apple ID and password.

  4. If your "Apple ID and Primary Email Address" are not the same, there will be a prominent box prompting you to change that.

  5. Make sure that your Primary Email Address is the one that you want to use as your Apple ID. (If not, add it and verify it to your Apple ID account.)

    Note that this email address cannot be the same as your "Rescue Email Address" so if you want to use that email address, you will have to change the "Rescue Email Address" in the "Password and Security" section of the "My Apple ID" at http://appleid.apple.com.

  6. Once your Primary Email Address is correct, select the option to make your Apple ID and Primary Email Address the same.

  7. On your Mac(s):

    • Log out of iCloud in System Preferences and then log back in with your new Apple ID.
    • In the Messages app, delete your Apple ID and then re-add it using your email address.
    • Log out of iTunes and the App Store app, then log back in.
  8. On your iOS device(s):

    • Log out of iCloud and then back in.
    • Log out of FaceTime and then back in (tap the 'Use your Apple ID for FaceTime).
    • Check Messages to make sure that your Apple ID is listed there.
    • Log out of iTunes & App Stores in Settings.

Also, if you use Find My iPhone or Find My Friends you may need to reconfigure those on iOS and Mac OS X.

Note that after you make this change you may be asked to confirm your billing information for iTunes. Usually that just means re-entering the credit card security number (that three- or four-digit code on the back of the card).

Temporary frustration versus on-going frustration

Making this switch isn't very difficult, although it is a bit annoying and can be time-consuming, depending on how many Macs and iOS devices you have. It's a decision between the temporary frustration of changing everything to be the way that Apple now wants it to be versus the ongoing frustration of trying to fight against the way Apple wants it to be.

Apple doesn't seem to be making any movement towards making this easier for those of us with more than one Apple ID, so it's up to us to decide which frustration we prefer.

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