SharePlay — the iOS 15 feature that lets you both stream and FaceTime with friends at the same dang time — will not be a part of iOS 15 (or any of Apple's other major software releases) when that full update arrives in the fall. Instead, it will be the latest iOS feature to miss the public release date. Apple plans to include SharePlay with a future update to its software.
Apple announced the news to developers on its own site today (August 17), in a post that stated the feature has also "disabled for use in the developer beta 6 versions of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and tvOS 15," and that it will be disabled in the beta 6 release of Monterey. The company gave no explanation for why this is happening.
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As for when we will get SharePlay back, Apple notes that it will be "enabled for use again in future developer beta releases and will launch to the public in software updates later this fall."
Why SharePlay is cool, where it can improve
Throughout the last year and a half, many (myself included) needed something like SharePlay. Watching a show or movie with friends and family remotely is too clumsy, requiring a device for streaming the show and another for a call on a service such as FaceTime, Google Meet, Houseparty or Discord. Balancing these two acts is too complicated, especially with audio coming from both.
Enter SharePlay, which lets Apple users share streams — provided everyone subscribes to the right service or buys the movie/show a la carte — while on a FaceTime call. It's that sort of Apple feature that, as the old saying goes, just worked.
When I tested this feature out using the Apple TV app, it worked pretty well. Even Spatial Audio, Apple's trick for making audio sound like it's coming from the on-screen position, worked well. When I tested it on iPadOS 15, my colleagues, whose faces were positioned on either side of the episode of Ted Lasso, sounded like they were to my left and right, respectively.
My only real frustration came with macOS 12, where the FaceTime call videos and the SharePlay stream didn't layer properly. On the iPad, the boxes for the stream and call were more aware of each other, and on the Mac they were just windows that were not sharing the screen well enough.
SharePlay hasn't been as great of a feature for those whose friends are on Android, or you want to watch something on Netflix (which Apple hasn't announced a partnership with yet). I'd also love it if Apple could release a camera for the Apple TV that allows you to FaceTime from that box, and not have to use your phone or iPad as camera.
Delayed features is the new normal for Apple
Apple loves to announce big features when it reveals the OS updates at WWDC — but it doesn't always include them in the final release. For iOS 12, it was Group FaceTime Chat, coming a month and a half after iOS 12's Sept. 17, 2018 release, on October 30.
Application Tracking Transparency, which looked to improve privacy and allow you to limit third-party developers' ability to track your activity, also arrived late, in iOS 14.5, on April 26, 2021, months after iOS 14's September 16, 2020 release.
In a related note, Apple's controversial technology to scan and detect child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is also getting delayed. It's going to be on iOS 15/iPadOS 15 by the end of 2021, not on iOS 15's first public release.
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