Home>News>Economy>Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET

Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET

Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET

Apple just announced some big changes to its FaceTime video chat app. Upgrades will arrive with iOS 15’s public beta in July and its wide release this fall, when the iPhone 13 is also expected to make an appearance. (You can download iOS 15’s developer beta right now, if you dare.) One of FaceTime’s buzziest features, SharePlay, enables iPhone users to host virtual watch parties, share their screens and more — all within a FaceTime video call.

With SharePlay, you can stream the same movie or TV show as your friends, just like you can with Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party), but with the added benefit of picture-in-picture video chat courtesy of FaceTime. Teleparty and a lot of other watch party apps only enable synchronized video streaming and an instant messaging component. You can also use SharePlay to share music (virtual dance party, anyone?) or your entire iPhone screen. 

Read more: Here’s how to use watch party apps for Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Netflix and Sling TV. 

Between screen sharing, call scheduling, background blurring and FaceTime’s new compatibility with Android and Windows devices, it seems Apple is coming after not only watch party apps, but Zoom as well. Want to try out SharePlay on your own iOS 15-enabled iPhone? Here’s how it works.

Watch together: How to use FaceTime SharePlay for streaming TV or movies

Having a watch party in FaceTime is simple and intuitive with SharePlay. When you stream movies or TV shows with friends, 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.

Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET
Apple has partnered with a number of streaming services for the launch of SharePlay.

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.

Here’s how to set it up in FaceTime:

1. Start a FaceTime call with a friend.

2. Open a streaming app and choose a show or movie.

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

Listen together: How to use FaceTime SharePlay for music

Using SharePlay to listen to a new album with friends 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. 

Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET
Both parties can add songs to a shared queue in FaceTime.

Here’s how to share music with SharePlay:

1. Start a FaceTime call with a friend.

2. Open Apple Music and choose a song.

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

Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET
Sharing music in a FaceTime call.

Share your screen: How to use SharePlay to share your iPhone screen or apps

Like Zoom, FaceTime will now let you share your screen with others on the call, 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. 

Soon, FaceTime will be able to host your virtual watch party. Here's how it works - CNET
Screen sharing in FaceTime with Apple’s SharePlay.

One drawback to FaceTime SharePlay: The streaming subscription problem

Netflix was notably absent from the list of partners referenced in Apple’s WWDC keynote, as were Amazon Prime Video and Spotify. And Apple notes that a subscription may be required of both parties in order to share streaming services (like HBO Max) through SharePlay. It’s not clear yet whether you could circumvent this by sharing your video stream via screen-share instead of through the app itself, or if services that haven’t inked an official deal with Apple (like Netflix) will still be available for SharePlay, perhaps with a less optimized user experience.

SharePlay isn’t the only thing Apple announced at WWDC 2021. Check out all the new features coming to iOS 15, including upgrades to Apple Maps and iMessages, plus all the health features coming in WatchOS 8 and some welcome privacy updates, like a service that helps you hide your email from potential spammers.


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