WWDC 21: Apple Is Bringing Watch Party-Style SharePlay to FaceTime Calls

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A shared viewing experience is coming to FaceTime as part of Apple’s upcoming iOS 15 software update. The company kicked off its 2021 Worldwide Developer Conference today, and spent time focusing on new features coming to its various software platforms, including the iOS software powering its popular iPhone line. Among the key updates highlighted, Apple showed off something called SharePlay, which allows a shared viewing experience during FaceTime calls.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, walked through the feature, which seems similar to the watch party features we’ve seen pop up on various streaming services over the past year. The idea is for several people in separate locations to watch the same show or movie in sync with each other so they can react more naturally — as if they were watching in the same room.

The watch party approach has gained traction during the pandemic, as many chose to stay at home and distance themselves for others. The SharePlay API looks to bring a similar experience to Apple’s FaceTime video calling service, including a shared group chat, and the company announced several streaming service partners have already signed up.

Among the notable supported services are Hulu, HBOMax, Disney+, Twitch, Pluto TV, TikTok, and Paramount+. Of course, Apple’s own streaming service, Apple TV+, will support the feature as well. And yes, there are some significant services not currently on the list of supported apps, including Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video. We’ll keep an eye on that list to see if other major players join the party at a later date.

We’re still tracking Apple’s WWDC announcements, but if iOS 15 follows the company’s usual pattern, we’re likely to see the update go live later this month, somewhere around the launch of the next iPhone. Beyond the iPhone, however, Apple said the SharePlay feature will be supported on FaceTime through the web, which means Windows and Android users will be able to take part as well.

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