SharePlay, an interactive communication feature that allows users to enjoy content with others through FaceTime, is coming to the iMessage platform in the fall — and serves as an easy-to-use, viable alternative to video calls. It’s currently available to iPhone users running iOS 15 through the FaceTime app, which shares media within a traditional video call. The feature isn’t available for all applications, but the content-sharing method built into the smartphone’s operating system is convenient. However, there might be a time when a user needs to share content but doesn’t want the immersive experience of a FaceTime call. For those times, Apple is bringing SharePlay to iMessage, and the iOS 16 beta has revealed the process for sharing media through the company’s messaging platform.
The additions to SharePlay were first announced in June at the Worldwide Developers Conference, an event that is largely highlighted by software reveals but is occasionally complemented by hardware releases. Little was known about how SharePlay would come to iMessage following the keynote — it represented just a short time in the presentation and was referenced briefly in the corresponding press release — but the iOS 16 beta releases shed more light on the upcoming feature. Though iOS 16 won’t reach the public until this fall, there is a period of beta releases that are used for further testing and development. Through both developer and public beta software versions, the process for starting SharePlay with iMessage has been uncovered.
There are a few limits that apply when attempting to share content with others using SharePlay, both in its current form and with the upcoming additions to iMessage. At this time, SharePlay is strictly limited to FaceTime, but that will soon change With Apple’s iOS 16. Whether using SharePlay with iMessage or FaceTime, applications must support the feature to be used across Apple’s communication services. Furthermore, if the application or service being shared requires a subscription, all members of the group or call must have an active subscription to share the content. Everyone has to be up to date, too — SharePlay with FaceTime requires all parties to be running iOS 15 or later, while SharePlay with iMessage will require all parties to be running iOS 16 or later.
Starting a SharePlay — whether using FaceTime or iMessage — begins within the application whose content will be shared with another person. First, open up the application to be shared, and start playing the content that will be shared with another user. Then, navigate to the system-wide share menu that appears when sharing any content on iOS. Accessing the share menu will vary depending on which native or third-party application is being used, but it’s usually noted by a box with an arrow pointing upward or three dots. Users might need to tap on a ‘More’ button offering more sharing choices to access SharePlay based on which application is being shared. Next, tap the green ‘SharePlay’ icon on the share menu to initiate a SharePlay.
A traditional message window will open, prompting the user to either select a contact or enter a phone number — of an Apple user with access to iMessage and FaceTime — to begin sharing. After the user has entered a contact or phone number, select either ‘iMessage’ or ‘FaceTime’ at the bottom of the window to start the SharePlay. If a connection hasn’t upgraded to iOS 16 yet, the iMessage button will be greyed out. A Messages page will open with the SharePlay link embedded, and tapping the blue send button will start the SharePlay for the sender. It’ll appear at the top of the screen just like a FaceTime call but won’t share the user’s audio or video. Once the recipient accepts the SharePlay by tapping the iMessage link, it’ll play for all parties, and users can chat about the content being shared. The feature is set to debut this fall and figures to be a convenient way to share content with others without the effort of a video call.