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.

Related Roundups: iOS 15, iPadOS 15
Related Forum: iOS 15

Top Rated Comments

Attirex Avatar
8 months ago
Too complicated. Pass. I'll just send my two friends a text and tell them that I watched a great TV show they should see.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mansplains Avatar
8 months ago
I didn't realize until now that all parties need to be subscribers/own all shared content. Granted, I didn't look into SharePlay since streaming via Discord has worked well for me. Considering DRM it makes some sense to have this limitation, but I guess I don't have a use case for SharePlay. My friends don't need an account for HBO to sit on the couch with me and share IRL, over FaceTime should be the same in my mind.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Roses3 Avatar
8 months ago
I’m confused, why state that everyone on Spotify needing to have premium is not always an ideal experience when it’s the exact same issue for Apple Music. Everyone needs to essentially have a “premium/paid” account for Apple Music so wouldn’t the experience not be “ideal” for both?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
abotsis Avatar
8 months ago
I watched the new Sopranos with a high school buddy that lives across the country. It worked well, with one exception: watching on appletv. In that case, the facetime stays active on (in my case) my ipad, and the movie was on appletv. This all worked well, except for audio. When it came to audio, I had two choices: move conversation audio to my airpods (which was annoying because I couldn't hear the movie) or move movie audio to my airpods (which was annoying because I couldn't hear my friend). In both cases, it sucked. If I took my airpods out, then the movie audio would play for my friend over facetime, resulting in an echo. Gah.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Enrico77 Avatar
8 months ago
I live in Europe and all my historical friends are scattered in different countries. Me I am in France, another in Germany, some others in Italy. Well, my first thought was ‘SharePlay is fantastic, we will watch a film all together as when we were children’. I tried and I discovered that it does not work if the Apple accounts are belong different countries. Even if the content IS available in both countries. This countries division is really boring (like for e.g. Apple Watch LTE that does not work in roaming…me I bought it for doing sport and regularity in my bicycle training I cross national border), maybe American people don’t understand very well de problem because they live in a so big contry…in fact an entire continent, and maybe crossing the border is less common, but European countries are smaller…by driving few hours you can cross two or three countries! It is common also to live in a country but to work in another one, all we use the same money, the roaming is for free in all European countries…so in many point of view is similar to USA states…but in spite of everything, no cross European calls with Apple Watch, no SharePlay with friends…
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SFjohn Avatar
8 months ago
SharePlay is something I don’t see myself ever using.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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