Apple’s latest software updates for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV enable SharePlay; a new way to sync up content on FaceTime calls so you can enjoy movies, music and more with friends and family while you chat. It follows in the recent tradition of Apple adding features that would have been incredible during lockdown, just a couple of weeks after the end of a major Australian lockdown.
SharePlay is different from just sharing your screen; companions see and hear the same app content and the same time, but they all have control from their own devices, and nobody can see what else you’re doing if you choose to multitask. That also means that everyone needs to have downloaded the app you’re using, and they all need to have the appropriate subscription or purchased content. This isn’t a way to get around content rights.
The first way my family used SharePlay was on Fitness+, so we could all do a workout together. After we made sure that our phones and Apple TVs were fully up to date (which will take longer than you expect), it was easy to start the FaceTime call, head over to the Fitness app and select a workout.
Once I’d selected the workout, I got a prompt asking if I wanted to SharePlay. I pressed yes, and everyone else got a notification allowing them to join. We could have left it at that and just used our phone screens, but instead we used AirPlay to send the FaceTime call to our Apple TVs so we could have it on the big screen. It worked great, although you’ll need to use headphones for at least one of the two screens or you’ll get echoed into oblivion.
SharePlay also works with Apple Music. On a FaceTime call with my wife I selected a song in Apple Music, she accepted the prompt and joined the song at the exact same point as me, seamlessly within seconds.
If the other person doesn’t have access to the content you’re sharing, they get prompted to sign up or pay for it. However if one party doesn’t have the latest update, nobody gets any notifications so you won’t know what’s going on.
Some other apps SharePlay works with, aside from all the expected Apple subscriptions, are Paramount+, Kahoot!, Night Sky (which is a really cool stargazing app), Moleskine Flow (for collaborative drawing), and Doneit.
Other FaceTime improvements that come with the update include easier group calling, the creation of FaceTime links (so Android and PC users can join in), the ability to share your screen (making it a proper, free competitor for Zoom), and Spatial Audio so your companions’ voices come from their position on the screen.
Allowing groups of people to have a movie night, chill with some tunes or check out the stars together no matter where they are, SharePlay is going to be huge for families separated by the tyranny of distance, and teenagers separated by the tyranny of being too young to drive.
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