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App Development
5 minutes read

SharePlay API: WWDC 2021

By Robert Kazmi
A couple enjoying the SharePlay feature on their mobile phones.
By Robert Kazmi
App Development
5 minutes read

The SharePlay API was one of the most exciting new features introduced for iOS 15 in Apple’s 2021 WWDC. This new API opens up the possibility for developers to smoothly add sharing features in apps. As a result, users will be able to easily share a number of media formats through FaceTime calls, allowing them to watch their favorite movies and TV shows as well as music and much more. 

This new feature will open up many possibilities for companies who wish to integrate sharing options into their app development projects. If you are considering implementing SharePlay into your app, read on. This post discusses the fundamentals of this new feature and how your app can benefit from it. 

The Growing Importance of Sharing Content

Content started out as a trend, but it is now dominating the world. Streaming services like Disney, Hulu, HBO Max, and Netflix have become one of the preferred ways for users to spend their time. However, during the pandemic, many people realized that something was missing: the possibility to share the experience.

After all, movies and TV shows are always better to watch when the experience is shared. The same can also be said about other types of content like music and social media posts. Apple realized this, and that is why sharing all of these different formats is now possible thanks to the SharePlay API.

That users can now share content easily through FaceTime calls opens up many possibilities for all sorts of apps. Technicalities aside, this new feature has the potential to help apps deliver new experiences to improve collective engagement. Yes, we aren’t just talking about individual user engagement. Your iOS app now has the potential to bring many users together, even if they don’t have an Apple device.

SharePlay API Overview

SharePlay won’t just work with Apple Music and Apple TV. The decision on content access ultimately depends on each individual app. This new feature included in iOS 15 allows users to watch their favorite content together with their contacts through a simple FaceTime call. For users, this is great news, and for developers, this API is also a positive release on behalf of Apple.

An API allows developers to easily integrate SharePlay and FaceTime into apps. A smooth integration accelerates the development process, helping reduce the possibilities of bugs, and most importantly, enriching the User Experience.

The goal with this is to build shared experiences that users can co-watch. These group experiences include sharing different types of media like movies, TV, music, and more. The shared content is run locally.

Apple seems to have thought about how this works for the many different users. These are some of the most important aspects to consider:

  • If a user does not have the app being used, the App Store will ask them to download it.
  • Non-Apple users can now join a FaceTime call and enjoy the shared experience.
  • A regular FaceTime call is encrypted from end to end to protect privacy.
  • All users will be able to access playback controls and iMessage as part of the FaceTime call.
  • Users can access the shared experience from different devices, not necessarily a mobile one.
  • Sharing will work with social media apps like Instagram, Twitch, TikTok, and more in case users want to watch this type of content together.
  • When a user in a shared experience speaks, the content automatically accommodates. 

SharePlay Technical Considerations

The SharePlay API will be available for Apple devices with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and even Apple TV with tvOS 15. 

As mentioned, this new feature will be made available through FaceTime calls, allowing users to share their content on their contacts’ devices by activating the sharing option. Also, it will help developers integrate this feature into different apps.

There’s no need to worry in case you think that FaceTime calls only work for Apple devices. FaceTime calls will now be available for other devices via a link that Apple users can share with them. That way, it is now possible for non-Apple users to stay in touch with contacts who use apps that were once exclusive to Apple.

For developers, it is worth highlighting that the Group Activities and AVFoundation APIs are now integrated into the Core Media Stack, making users feel like they are all in the same place. This way, guaranteeing a truly shared experience is possible.

SharePlay API: Final Thoughts

We can only wait and see how apps will make use of the new SharePlay API. This feature takes the concept of a shared experience to the next level. Finding new and innovative ways to implement it will surely be a major challenge that existing apps will face.

If you want to use SharePlay properly, it is best to find an experienced iOS development partner who can help you figure out the technical and design challenges to engage your users. 

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