SharePlay on iOS 15 and tvOS 15Source: Apple

With the pandemic forcing more of us indoors, the way we communicate with others and the way we spend time together has changed. In 2021, Apple announced a significant update to its FaceTime app with some powerful new features under the umbrella term SharePlay.

SharePlay unlocks some new functionality for your video calls for shared entertainment experiences as well as increased productivity. While the feature didn't launch with iOS 15 and was instead pushed into the iOS 15.1 release, it is now available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to enjoy in the the latest software releases.

Here's everything you need to know about SharePlay.

What is SharePlay?

Craig Federighi described SharePlay as "a powerful new set of features for shared experiences that you can enjoy on a FaceTime call" when announcing the feature during the WWDC 2021 keynote. Here's how Apple puts it:

SharePlay makes it possible for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to share experiences with friends and family while on a FaceTime call. For example, users can chat with each other while having a viewing party, listening to an album with a friend, or completing a fitness challenge together from wherever they are, and SharePlay keeps all of these activities in sync across everyone on FaceTime.

SharePlay is akin to other shared streaming experiences like Netflix Party and Facebook Watch Together in that it allows users to enjoy content simultaneously, though it expands beyond just movies and TV shows and includes music, Fitness+ workouts, and even more content types.

What kinds of content work with SharePlay?

The most common use case for SharePlay is to watch movies and TV shows together via the TV app, while the shared playback controls lend themselves well to keeping everything in sync for each participant. SharePlay also supports music playback from Apple Music with the same shared playback features and even integrates Apple Fitness+ workouts so you can still get sweaty with your workout buddy even when you're not in the same place.

Other apps and media types are supported, as well as games, so there's a lot you can do with SharePlay. However, each app developer must choose to support the feature. SharePlay even enables users to share their screens, which is a great way to show off some family photos and help with productivity tasks.

Which music services work with SharePlay?

SharePlay on iPhone Source: Apple

Out of the gate, Apple Music supported SharePlay music experiences, though the feature is also open to third-party services. Spotify added SharePlay support soon after the feature launched to the public and other audio apps like SoundCloud also offer support.

Which video services work with SharePlay?

Support for SharePlay was built into the Apple TV app from day one of the feature's availability but third-party video apps can also offer the feature. Various video streaming services have already added SharePlay to their apps, or committed to offering it, including some of the biggest names out there:

  • Digital Concert Hall
  • Disney+
  • ESPN+
  • HBO Max
  • Hulu
  • MasterClass
  • MUBI
  • NBA
  • Paramount+
  • Pluto TV
  • SHOWTIME
  • TikTok
  • Twitch

Notably, though unsurprisingly, Netflix is not on that list. It remains to be seen if this is another feature the popular streaming service chooses not to play ball with as it resists integration with the Apple ecosystem. Amazon Prime Video is also conspicuous in its absence, especially since the service has adopted other Apple features quickly, though that's likely in order to encourage the use of its own Watch Party feature.

Which apps and games work with SharePlay?

In addition to video and music services, SharePlay can work with all manner of applications and games. Each developer has to choose to support the feature, though, so adoption of the feature will expand over time. However, right now you can look at properties together with Zillow, learn about the constellations with Night Sky, browse Reddit using Apollo, check the weather with CARROT Weather, or enjoy a hilarious game of Heads Up! with a pal over FaceTime.

We're keeping an ever-updating list of SharePlay-enabled apps to help you track down the best ones for your needs.

Can I watch or listen using SharePlay without a subscription?

Those of you thinking that SharePlay might allow for an interesting loophole in the streaming media subscription space will be sorely disappointed to learn that everyone in a SharePlay experience must have access to the shared media individually to join in.

That means, to have a shared Apple Music experience, everyone must be a subscriber, or to stream a movie via Disney+, everyone must have paid access to that service, and so forth. It's the same story for games and other apps so everyone wanting to play Heads Up! must own the game, for example.

Apple's developer documentation even explains how SharePlay can offer an onboarding flow for new subscribers to the relevant service in order for the user to take part.

When can I use SharePlay?

Right now! SharePlay was officially released with iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, and macOS Monterey in October, 2021. Once your devices are running the latest software, you'll be able to initiate an SharePlay experience via FaceTime.

What devices work with SharePlay?

SharePlay On MacSource: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

SharePlay works across all of the best iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple TV devices. Since the feature arrived in iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, and macOS Monterey, your device needs to be capable of running the latest software from Apple.

Just make sure to check if your iPhone is compatible with iOS 15, your iPad can run iPadOS 15, or if your Mac supports macOS Monterey first.

Does SharePlay work with FaceTime for Android?

Unfortunately, no. Though Apple has finally made FaceTime a cross-platform tool in the form of FaceTime links, SharePlay only works across Apple platforms, so your Android-toting pals can't join in on the shared fun.

Together apart

SharePlay allows for some neat shared experiences even if you can't be in the same room as someone. Whether you want to watch a movie with a pal, check out the latest album from your favorite musician, take a virtual tour of your next property, or play a game together, you can do all of that with SharePlay from across the world.