News & insights

Apple’s Digital Legacy Service… Is It Enough?

1st July 2021

Apple’s Digital Legacy Service… Is It Enough?

In the early noughties Apple told us, “If you don’t have an iPhone, well, you don’t have an iPhone …”

Now, according to the tech giant, there are an estimated 1.65 billion iPhones in use globally and, staggeringly, more than 6 billion active smartphone subscriptions. Every one of these devices, however we use them, is a data pot, holding everything from phone numbers and messages, emails and photos, to passwords and financial information – the modern-day equivalent of a safe or filing cabinet.

But unlike a safe or filing cabinet, its contents are intangible and can only be accessed (assuming the absence of cyber criminals), by the device’s owner. Of course, this doesn’t present a problem, except in the event of the owner’s incapacity or sadly, death. As I’ve commented in previous articles, there is a growing problem of digital assets being left in limbo when people pass away, with family and friends unable to access personal, and sometimes important information.

However, at Apple’s recent annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC21) ( in June, the California-based tech firm said that it will add a digital legacy service for users, allowing them to assign a third party administrator who can access the data on their devices and stored in the cloud, in the unfortunate event of their death.

The administrator, appointed by the Apple user, will be able to sign in through a specially created Apple ID and using an access key to view password-protected material. The administrator will also have access to information stored in the user’s cloud but will not be able to access saved credit cards or other logins associated with the device.

This is great news; the very last thing the family of a deceased loved-one needs is the emotional distress of trying, sometimes fruitlessly, to access digital assets.

We live in an increasingly digital world, where now, adults in their 20s have spent their whole lives in the fast-paced, internet-based world. Their entire existences have been documented on social media, their transactions and activities largely based around the world wide web.  For the majority of people with smartphones, their camera rolls will contain hundreds, if not thousands of photos – often the most cherished of possessions when a loved one is lost.

Although Apple’s announcement is a step in the right direction, there’s a good deal more for us all to bear in mind. And for sure, we need to consider who has access to our digital materials after our time has come and leave a clear plan and the information for them to be able to wade through our online footprints. The most obvious place to do this of course, is in a Will, but with only around half of Brits currently having the relevant post-mortal documentation in place, there’s a cliff edge of inaccessible data just around the corner. The problem now it seems, is that everyone does have an iPhone …