In today's world, there are many options for tablets and smartphones. It's common that in a family there could be various devices from different companies using different platforms. And that's fine, to each their own. And there are some great apps that help families connect across these different platforms. But in an all iOS family (i.e., only handheld Apple products), like mine, there can be some serious advantages to be had that help the family connect, share and aid in daily tasks. Apple's ecosystem is referred to as a "walled garden", often used as a negative connotation to highlight its limitations. Sure, sometimes that may be the case, but other times, walled gardens are the nicest lots on the block. Clean, well manicured and great for family gatherings.
Based on my experiences, here are some great advantages to having a family using only iOS devices.
In an all iOS world, when you create group message in iMessage, you can continue that conversation as a group in that message thread. But, if I set up a group message with at least 1 non-iOS device, it will send individual messages to everyone and that group thread will never exist. Having a continued group thread is handy when you need a conversation amongst the whole group rather than relaying the message to multiple people.
Sure, there are apps that can handle this cross platform, but is Grandma or Mom really going to install WhatsApp or Facebook Messager? No, they aren't. It's most convenient to just have everything built into the Messages app, which is why Apple doesn't have a separate app for this.
Like Messages, there are a lot of other third party cross platform applications that do the same thing, but once again, having it built into the first party application (Phone, in this case) makes it a lot easier.
This features was released as a part of iOS 6.0 and is really handy for sharing pictures. After you've taken a bunch of pictures, you create a Shared Photostream and send it family/friends for them to subscribe. They'll have access to view and save those photos. If they have a Mac and launch iPhoto, they can see that photostream and import those pictures into their iPhoto library.
A great example is when my parents went on a trip to Italy. I had them each set up a shared photostream on their phone and had all of us kids subscribe to it. Throughout their trip, pictures would pop up in the photostream and we could see a running picture diary of their trip with little effort on either of our parts.
One thing I would really like see added to shared photostreams is the ability for "subscribees" to add photos to the photostream. That way it is truely a "shared" photostream and it would be great as a repository for photos from an event or trip where everyone is taking their own photos. Get on it Apple.
This is a little known gem of iOS 6, but unfortunately (right now), this feature requires a Mac. The Reminders app is a very handy and surprisingly powerful (see location reminders) but what I want to highlight here is the ability to share reminder lists. My wife and I have a reminder list called "Shopping List". I created it and to share it with her, I had to go into Reminders on my Mac and click the share button (no idea why you can't do this in iOS). Once shared, all items that her or I post to that reminders list will be synced. We love using it as our shopping list where we can both add things for our next grocery trip.
PRO TIP: Use Siri with this shared reminder list. "Add bacon to my shopping list". Boom.
It's very easy to share a calendar via iOS by clicking into into one of your iCloud calendars and adding someone to share it with. Very handy for sharing sports or family event calendars.
Find My Friends
Apple makes a nice little app that can easily show the location of other friends or family members. For some family members, it may cross the privacy line but it's really easy to flip on a switch to hide from followers. But it can be very handy to just take a quick look to see how close a family member is if they are driving home. You can also set up a temporary share of a location if you want to broadcast the location of an event to family or friends.
There are many other neat features or apps that make life easier or more amusing. Fun turn by turn games like Letterpress, Scrabble, Draw Something, Words With Friends or Chess With Friends can make a bus ride or a wait at a restaurant a little more enjoyable.
How do you use iOS between your family and friends?
If you're an Android user, I'd be interested to hear what features or apps you use in the Android environment between your family and friends.