SharePlay Is Great for FaceTime, but It Might Be Too Late to Matter

Maybe we'll use it to remotely fix our parents' iPads

Key Takeaways

  • SharePlay lets you share synced videos, Fitness+ workouts, and more over FaceTime.
  • Participants can all pause and skip, whenever they like.
  • SharePlay requires iOS 15.1, and is coming to the Mac soon.
SharePlay and FaceTime on an iPhone 13

Apple

SharePlay might be one of Apple’s most confusing technologies yet—at least until you start using it. 

SharePlay has finally launched in full across Apple’s Mac and iOS lineup, letting you share, via FaceTime, whatever’s in the app you’re currently using. For example, if you’re watching a show in the Apple TV app, you can call up a friend over FaceTime, then watch it together, in sync, using SharePlay. This works for all kinds of apps, including good old-fashioned screen sharing, and it’s ready to change how we interact. 

“As a fashion stylist who’s always traveling and staying in hotels, I’d love this,” professional stylist Nuria Gregori told Lifewire via email. “I could come back and share a Fitness+ workout with my partner. It would feel like being back at home.”

Sharing Is Caring

We’ve figured out a bunch of ways to share stuff from our phones and computers; many of them are charmingly low-tech and involve our message app of choice. If we want to share the screen of an app, we take a screenshot and send it.

We might take an actual photo of a computer screen to share, or if we’re trying to help out a family member with a tech issue, the usual approach is to have them fire up a second device, FaceTime you, then point its camera at the screen of the problem device. 

SharePlay fixes all of that. 

"SharePlay is so deeply integrated into FaceTime and iOS, that Zoom, Meet, Teams, or Skype might never be able to compete."

SharePlay works with music, movies, and TV, and pretty much any app that supports it. The catch is that every participant must have access to the apps involved. If you’re watching an episode of Ted Lasso, then everyone must have an Apple TV+ subscription to join in. 

That’s because the show isn’t streamed over the internet from your device to the others. Instead, it plays on each device as if they were streaming alone. All SharePlay does is sync the playback.

SharePlay playing Ted Lasso in FaceTime on an iPhone 13

Apple

But the payoff is enormous. It works like it would if you were all in the same room. Anyone can pause or skip the video, for example, and it pauses or skips for everyone. And when developers see the potential, we’ll start to get some interesting uses. For example, iOS and Mac developer James Thomson has experimented with adding support to his dice-rolling app.

“[I’m using] SharePlay to synchronize the Dice by PCalc tray between multiple players on a FaceTime call,” wrote James Thomson on Twitter

And of course, SharePlay also works with Apple Fitness+ for workouts and meditations. 

No Contest

SharePlay is so deeply integrated into FaceTime and iOS that Zoom, Meet, Teams, or Skype might never be able to compete. And ever since iOS 15, FaceTime users can generate Zoom-like links that let anyone join a FaceTime call, even through the browser. 

SharePlay might be the killer feature that lets FaceTime compete. For me, and I suspect for many others, FaceTime is the one you use for family chats, whereas work calls go over Zoom or Teams, but never FaceTime. As apps adopt the SharePlay technology, you may be able to do conference calls and share presentations, spreadsheets, and more.

Using SharePlay and FaceTime to look at houses on an iPad

Apple

But perhaps it’s all a bit late. SharePlay would have been perfect during the worldwide lockdowns, but those are far less common today. And businesses have already picked their video call services. SharePlay is a great feature, yes, but it would have been even better two years ago.

Still, if nothing else, SharePlay’s built-in screen-sharing will make it a lot easier to troubleshoot your parents’ devices.

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