Hands-On With iOS 15's SharePlay Feature
With the iOS 15.1 update that launched in late October, Apple added SharePlay, a feature that's designed to let you do more over FaceTime. Using SharePlay, you can watch movies, listen to music, and use apps with friends and family, and we thought we'd give it a try to see how it works.
The first step with any SharePlay experience is to start FaceTime. You can use SharePlay with one person or with multiple people, but everyone needs to have a device running iOS 15.1. SharePlay is also coming to the Mac in macOS Monterey 12.1, but the update is still in beta at this time.
In a FaceTime call, just swipe out of the FaceTime interface and open any app that supports SharePlay, like Apple Music or Apple TV. From there, select a song or a TV show/movie to share with others, and you'll see a prompt to initiate the SharePlay experience.
Each person on the FaceTime call will also see a prompt to join SharePlay, and once all parties have agreed, content is synced between everyone on the call. With apps that include media, such as Apple TV, participants have control over media playback so anyone can play or pause the content, with everyone seeing the action.
Volume and closed captioning are controlled individually, and SharePlay is designed to lower the volume of what's playing when someone speaks so you don't miss any commentary. With apps like Apple Music, everyone can change the song that's playing or add something to the queue.
It's worth noting that whichever content that's being SharePlayed, each person needs to have access. With Apple TV, for example, users need to be subscribed, and the same goes for Apple Music. If you try to play a movie that you own from iTunes, the person on the other end needs to own the movie too or it won't work.
Third-party apps support SharePlay too, and we found that one of the best experiences was with TikTok. After opening up the app and initiating the SharePlay experience, all parties involved can scroll through TikTok and watch the same videos with one another.
Again, each person needs to own the app in question for the SharePlay experience. We tried Spotify, but each person on the call needs to be a Spotify premium subscriber to listen together, which is not always an ideal experience. In situations where everyone on the call doesn't own the same media, the content will play for who does own it, and others are able to remain on the FaceTime call to continue to chat.
Twitch, Spotify, TikTok, Apollo, and other apps all support SharePlay, and Apple has said apps like Disney+ and Hulu will work with it too, but we couldn't get these to activate in our testing so support is not yet implemented. Netflix, YouTube, and other apps that might be popular to use with SharePlay also don't have support at this time. We have a dedicated list of apps that work with SharePlay for those interested.
SharePlay can also be used for screen sharing purposes, which is great if you need to help someone with a device issue or if you want to plan something with multiple people. For Apple Fitness+ users, SharePlay allows for group workouts, which is great for long distance workouts together. In our testing, SharePlay was a little bit choppy in just one of our test calls, but overall worked well, and it was definitely processor intensive, so expect battery drain when using the feature.
If you have an Apple TV or another AirPlay compatible device, SharePlay can be AirPlayed to your TV so you can watch content on a bigger screen while remaining on a FaceTime call.
Have you tried out SharePlay? Let us know what you think in the comments.