Home SharePlay Vanishes in Latest iOS 17.4 Betas

Handoff from iPhone to blue HomePod mini Credit: Apple
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One of the cooler features we’ve been expecting to see in iOS 17.4 next month was a new expansion of SharePlay that would let you host an Apple Music party in your living room. Sadly, it looks like that may not be ready for prime time, as it’s mysteriously disappeared in the third iOS 17.4 beta released earlier this week.

The CarPlay-style SharePlay feature was a nice surprise when it showed up in the first iOS 17.4 beta at the end of last month, promising to allow multiple users on the same network to link up to an Apple TV or HomePod and contribute to a shared play queue.

Apple is muddying the waters a bit by using the term SharePlay for this, as it originally meant sharing media remotely over FaceTime, but the first release of iOS 17 brought a new dimension to the media-sharing feature, allowing everyone to share their favorite tunes on a road trip via CarPlay. This worked by allowing the CarPlay-connected iPhone to serve as a sort of “host” while other iPhone users could connect remotely to contribute their own songs and even control the Now Playing queue directly.

While the host device advertised its willingness to share over Bluetooth, people could also connect by scanning a QR code on the dashboard. Those connections went through Apple’s servers, as evidenced by the fact that people didn’t technically need to be in the same car to join a SharePlay session; they could be anywhere on the planet as long as you sent them a shot of the QR code to scan

With iOS 17.4, it appeared that Apple was planning to extend the same functionality to the Apple TV and HomePod, allowing similar music sharing in a party setting. It’s an idea that Apple has experimented with quite a bit over the years; iTunes had a Party Shuffle feature that later became iTunes DJ and even allowed your guests to join using an iPhone or iPod touch running the iTunes Remote app. It was great fun at parties, but it sadly saw its demise in iTunes 11, never to reappear.

Until now, that is. This new SharePlay feature is basically iTunes DJ for an Apple Music generation. In the limited time I had with it during the first iOS 17.4 beta, it worked well and promised to deliver the same kind of collaborative party experience that I had once enjoyed with iTunes — but with a catalog of over a hundred million songs, rather than the 50,000 or so I had in my personal iTunes library.

The best part was that, unlike traditional FaceTime-based SharePlay, only the host needed an Apple Music subscription. That’s logical, as everyone is listening in the same room, and guests are just adding to the mix that’s playing on the subscriber’s HomePod or Apple TV.

Doing this on the Apple TV was particularly slick, as a QR code to join would come up on the big screen, letting anybody in the room quickly join in. For sharing on a HomePod, guests could scan the QR code from the host’s iPhone instead. Everyone and everything simply had to be running the same iOS 17.4, tvOS 17.4, or HomePod Software 17.4 betas.

While it’s not the first time that Apple has previewed a feature in a beta that hasn’t made the cut for the final release, it’s been a while since it’s done it so early in the beta cycle. Collaborative Playlists in Apple Music appeared in the first three iOS 17.2 betas before being pulled in the fourth beta, only to reappear in the first iOS 17.3 beta. While it’s possible SharePlay for Home could still make a comeback in a future iOS 17.4 beta, it’s been missing for two now, so we’re not holding out much hope. We’re crossing our fingers that Apple hasn’t abandoned the idea entirely, so maybe it will be ready for iOS 17.5.

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