(Pocket-lint) - While at WWDC 2021, Apple announced a massive update to FaceTime in an attempt to make it better compete with Zoom and other video calling services that have exploded in the past year. As part of that update, it introduced a new feature, called SharePlay, which basically turns FaceTime into a watch party service. Here's what you need to know.
What is Apple SharePlay?
When you're on a FaceTime call, SharePlay lets you bring music into your call for a shared listening experience, watch movies and TV shows with your friends in sync while having real-time conversations, and share your screen. At launch, it will work with many third-party apps, including TikTok, so you can bring all sorts of content into your FaceTime calls.
When will SharePlay be available?
SharePlay will be added to new FaceTime app, which officially rolls out with the iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey software updates later this year. However, Apple has announced SharePlay will be delayed and won't be available in the new FaceTime app or iOS 15 at launch.
The company specifically told developers that SharePlay will be disabled in the next betas of iOS 15, iPadOS15, tvOS 15, and macOS Monterey and thus will be absent in the official release of iOS 15 when it widely rolls out in the autumn. SharePlay is expected to be “in future developer beta releases and will launch to the public in software updates later this fall". We'll keep you posted.
What can you do with SharePlay?
There are three main things you can do with SharePlay: Listen together, Watch together, and Share your screen.
Let's say you're in a FaceTime video call with a friend talking about a song or album you love. With SharePlay, you can immediately and easily start playing the music you're discussing. All you need to do is open the Apple Music app, find the song or album, press play, and choose to listen together. The music will start in sync for everyone on the call.
The best part is everyone on the call can add songs to a queue and then share playback controls like pause or skip.
When you're on a FaceTime call, you can use SharePlay to start a watch party, or what Apple calls a "Shared Content" experience. Just open the TV app or a streaming app and press play. You and your friends can then watch in sync.
Since SharePlay works system-wide on Apple devices, you can leave the streaming app, then open another app to, say, order take out, and a picture-and-picture view will let you continue seeing your friends and the video you're enjoying. Apple said controls are "always accessible with just a tap". You can even jump into Messages to chat while watching.
If you prefer to watch on a bigger screen, you can extend the video to your Apple TV and watch it there while sharing the moment with your friends over FaceTime on your iPhone. Despite using multiple devices, everyone will be in sync.
Share your screen
When demoing, SharePlay, Apple used the example of someone browsing Zillow listings and wanting to do so live with their future roommates. Screen sharing is a simple and effective way to do so - and it works across Apple devices.
Which apps and services support SharePlay?
Besides Apple Music and the Apple TV app, SharePlay works with other popular apps and streaming services, because Apple created a SharePlay API for developers. Apple has already said it is working with certain partners, including Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, the NBA app, Twitch, TikTok, MasterClass, Zillow, Paramount+, ESPN+, and others.
How to start a FaceTime watch party
Since SharePlay is not officially available for consumers, nor are the iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or macOS Monterey updates, the process for using the feature to start a FaceTime watch party is subject to change.
Currently, here's how the process works in the iOS 15 betas.
Create and share a FaceTime link
- Launch the new FaceTime app on your iPhone or iPad.
- You will see two options:
- Create a Link
- New FaceTime.
- Tap Create a Link.
- Once the link appears, tap the “i” button.
- It's next to the “FaceTime Link” under the upcoming section.
- Choose the “Share Link” option in the menu.
- Pick a method to share the FaceTime call link.
- You can share via text message, WhatsApp, email, Messenger, etc.
- You can also just copy the link and move to an app and share it that way.
You can learn more about how to join a FaceTime call via a link through Pocket-lint's detailed guide. The Apple user who created the FaceTime link will need to tap a “check” button on their device to let others join the call.
Open a streaming app
Once you and your friends join the watch party, launch a supported video streaming app such as the TV app, Disney+, Hulu, or Paramount+, choose a movie or show to watch together, and that's it! Everyone will then watch in sync.
Want to know more?
The new FaceTime app includes a ton of other updates and improvements to FaceTime, including Spatial audio support, a Voice Isolation mode for blocking background noise, a grid view for seeing all participants, and FaceTime links, which - for the first time - can let Android and PC users join your FaceTime calls.
Writing by Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 9 June 2021.