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Apple's new SharePlay: How screenshare on FaceTime will work in iOS 15

The FaceTime enhancement isn't yet part of iOS 15, but it should be coming soon in an update.

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The new FaceTime feature allows you to experience streaming TV, movies and music within a video chat.

Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of WWDC 2021. All the latest coverage from Apple's annual developers conference.

Apple's new iOS 15 is here and it almost makes us feel like we've bought a brand new phone (speaking of which, the iPhone 13 is available for preorder now). Apple's latest software update comes with a lot of new features, including Focus mode, real-time weather alerts so you know when it starts raining, and facial recognition to safely store your driver's license and other IDs in your Apple Wallet. Pretty nifty, huh? 

Read more: Here are CNET's reviews of the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini and the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max

But iOS 15 comes with FaceTime's biggest updates yet, making Apple a big competitor for Zoom and Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party). SharePlay, one of iOS 15's most talked-about features, lets you share your screen with friends to watch movies, listen to songs and more -- all while on your FaceTime call. It takes video calling to the next level without the extra apps and subscription fees. The SharePlay feature, which we played with during the iOS 15 beta but is not yet available in the iOS 15 public release, may make the iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 upgrades even better when it's added in (here's how to download and install the current version of it). 

Between screen sharing, call scheduling, background blurring and FaceTime's new compatibility with Android and Windows devices, iOS 15 is shaping up to be a pretty exciting upgrade (though you may still want to wait to install it). 

Read more: Here's the latest iOS 15 features for HomeKit and HomePod

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How to use SharePlay to share your screen in FaceTime

Like Zoom, FaceTime will let you share your screen with others on the call when SharePlay is made available, so you can share more than just music and videos. Apple's suggested use cases include planning a trip together, browsing Zillow with future roommates, showing off a video game or helping a friend with a technical problem by walking them through which settings to change. This feature will also work across Apple devices, which means you can share your Mac screen or your iPhone or iPad screen in a call.   

How to stream shows and movies with FaceTime 

Having a watch party in FaceTime is simple and intuitive with SharePlay. When you stream movies or TV shows with a friend, content will sync across devices and allow both parties access to controls. And you'll still see and hear each other in picture-in-picture as you watch. Streaming services that have already partnered with Apple for SharePlay include Hulu, HBO Max, TikTok and ESPN Plus.

Read more: Apple's next 2021 event could show off AirPods 3 and new MacBook Pros in October

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Apple has partnered with a number of streaming services for the launch of SharePlay.

Apple

In order to use SharePlay, both parties need to use FaceTime on an Apple device that supports iOS 15, iPadOS 15 or MacOS Monterey. Another cool feature of SharePlay is that you can cast to your Apple TV while maintaining the FaceTime call on your iPhone. That way you're not stuck squinting at a tiny screen with your friend's face blocking the show.

Shared streaming video can be cast from an iPhone to an Apple TV when using SharePlay in FaceTime.

Apple

Here's how to set up SharePlay in FaceTime:

1. Start a FaceTime call.

2. Open a streaming app while connected to the call and choose a show or movie.

3. Press Play, and both parties can watch the same stream at once.

How to listen to music with SharePlay

Using SharePlay to listen to a new album with a friend works similarly to having a watch party. When sharing music, both parties will also have access to controls to pause, play or skip songs in SharePlay. And you can even contribute to shared playlists by adding songs to a queue within Apple Music. 

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Both parties can add songs to a shared queue in FaceTime.

Apple

Here's how to share music with SharePlay:

1. Start a FaceTime call.

2. Open Apple Music and choose a song.

3. Press Play, and the song will begin playing from both devices at the same time.

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Sharing music in a FaceTime call.

Apple

One drawback: SharePlay's subscription problem

Netflix, Spotify and YouTube are a few of the apps that won't sync with SharePlay. Apple also notes that a subscription may be required for both parties in order to share streaming services (like HBO Max or Disney Plus) through SharePlay. In our iOS 15 hands-on testing, we put this to the test and verified that not only do both parties need a subscription to the app being shared (if applicable), but they also need to have the app itself downloaded on both devices. 

Read more: iOS 15's best new features

So if your friend wants to SharePlay a TikTok video and you don't have the TikTop app installed, you won't be able to see the video over FaceTime. And before you get too excited, you also won't be able to circumvent this by sharing your video stream via screen-share instead of through the app itself.

SharePlay isn't the only thing Apple announced recently. Check out the new Apple Maps features, like turn by turn directions that make it a lot easier to know where you're going. Apple also announced the new Apple Watch Series 7 with curved edges and faster charging. And here's the latest on the iPhone 13 lineup if you're thinking about buying the new phone.

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Correction, Sept. 21: A previous version of this article incorrectly said SharePlay was included with the release of iOS 15. It was available in the beta version of the software.