Follow-Up on ‘Adware for Apple Services in iOS’

Yours truly, two weeks ago:

For the last several weeks, I’ve noticed an ad in Settings on my iPhone, in the iCloud section at the very top of the first screen: “Apple Arcade Free for 3 Months”. The reason this is dumb is that I pay for a family account for Apple One, so we already have Apple Arcade. But here’s Apple badgering me to sign up for a 3-month free trial that I don’t need.

If I tap into that ad’s section in Settings it explains why they’re offering it: “Services Included With Purchase”. I’m not even sure what device I bought that earned me this offer, but it shouldn’t matter. Why are they showing me something I already pay for?

This prompted some give-and-take with, well, people familiar with the matter, and I have an answer to share. The problem I was running into was a bug that resulted from the fact I have split Apple ID accounts: one account for iTunes and App Store purchases, and a separate account for my Apple ID. Long story short:

In hindsight, this was a mistake on my part. Everything is simpler if you only have one Apple ID that you use for both iCloud and iTunes/App Store purchases. The reason I never switched to using my iCloud account for everything, including purchases, is that there’s never been a way to migrate old purchases from a different account. And I’ve bought a lot of music, movies, and apps over the years using my other account.1

Using split accounts has always been a bit weird, occasionally problematic and/or confusing — but has mostly just worked out. It helps quite a bit that there are a lot of people working at Apple in the same situation. By the time the iPhone became a hit product, users new to the Apple ecosystem naturally used one address for everything. But split accounts are common from long-time Mac users, and there are a lot of long-time Mac users inside Apple.

This situation I ran into — seeing a promotion for a three-month Apple Arcade trial despite the fact that I pay for Apple One (which includes Arcade) — is just one of those glitches. Most Apple One subscribers don’t have split accounts, so they never saw the unnecessary promotion. And even amongst those who do have split accounts, they’d have to run into a certain set of circumstances to make it appear.2

So, it was a bug. And I am reliably informed that a fix is in the works that will appear in a near-future update to iOS.

  1. No joke, I’ve purchased 744 movies (and counting) from iTunes over the last two decades. Money runs through my fingers like water. ↩︎

  2. One way that it’s confusing to have multiple Apple IDs is that it’s my iCloud account — my address — that serves as the primary account for family sharing with my wife and son. But it’s my other account — my address — that has made all my iTunes and App Store purchases for 23 years. That includes making the purchase to subscribe to Apple One, even though Apple One includes features like additional iCloud storage space that apply to my iCloud account. So even though I have two accounts, one for iCloud and one for purchases, Apple’s back end is somehow capable of making it all work. They are two different accounts, but my iTunes account purchases can be shared through my iCloud account’s family sharing. It sounds confusing, I know. But for the last decade or so, it really has just worked and I haven’t had to think about it often, other than keeping two different passwords in my head. ↩︎︎