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The paint is barely dry on iOS 15, and Apple is already rolling out the first beta of iOS 15.1 to registered developers, which hopefully means we won’t have to wait long before we see a public release.
This is especially great since the first iOS 15.1 beta appears to herald the return of SharePlay, one of the biggest iOS 15 features that was originally expected to land in the first iOS 15.0 release, but was pulled by Apple back in August. Fortunately, we now know that “Later This Fall” could come as soon as next month — barring any new problems found during the iOS 15.1 cycle.
While we knew from the very start that some features wouldn’t arrive until at least iOS 15.1, SharePlay wasn’t originally on that list. In fact, it showed up in late June in the second iOS 15 beta, but clearly by mid-August Apple had decided it just wasn’t ready for prime time, and disabled it in beta 6, while providing alternative tools to help developers of specific SharePlay-compatible apps continue their work.
What Is SharePlay?
Just to recap, SharePlay is Apple’s answer to the “Watch Parties” that other services like Disney+, Hulu, and Plex have been offering for a while. Instead of being specific to one streaming service, however, SharePlay will leverage FaceTime to allow users to join together with their friends to watch videos and listen to audio simultaneously.
There’s lots of other exciting stuff in iOS 15 of course, but it’s fair to say that SharePlay was one of the “tentpole” features that Apple announced back in June, and it sounded like developers were pretty enthusiastic about supporting it as well.
After all, more than almost any other iOS 15 feature, SharePlay is hugely dependent upon third-party app support to truly reach its fullest potential.
Out of the box, SharePlay will only support Apple’s own Apple Music and Apple TV+ services — although Apple TV Channels will presumably be eligible as well, since they run directly through the TV app.
However, if users want to share content on another streaming service, that provider is going to have to make sure their iOS and tvOS apps are ready for SharePlay. Apple has a fairly extensive list of partners that should be ready to go very soon, including big names like Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, NBA, TikTok, MasterClass, and ESPN+, but there are still going to be others that may not want to play along, or simply take longer to get on board.
For instance, YouTube has already shown itself to be glacially slow when it comes to adopting new iOS features, and Netflix has a long trend of charting its own course and avoiding integration with Apple’s services. It’s also anybody’s guess when (or if) Spotify will add support, since it also has a habit of dragging its heels on new Apple features.
What Else Is New in iOS 15.1 Beta 1?
At this point, we haven’t found anything else that obviously stands out in the first iOS 15.1 beta, but the reintroduction of SharePlay may be enough.
There are several other features that didn’t make the cut for iOS 15.0, most notably enhanced Find My AirPods support, but since that likely requires new firmware on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, we can’t say for certain whether Apple may have it in the works for iOS 15.1. While an AirPods Pro beta firmware is available to developers, that was last released on July 30, and has never provided any evidence of support for the enhanced Find My AirPods feature.
It also appears that Apple is further expanding the Wallet app, with support for verifiable COVID Vaccination Cards. This almost certainly builds upon the Digital ID features already announced for iOS 15, and suggests that they could be ready sooner rather than later — although it’s still going to be up to state governments to actually provide them.
Along the same lines, Apple surprised us by adding Digital Keys in iOS 15.0, which previously wasn’t slated to arrive until later this fall. While it will still likely be some time before you can get your hands on a door lock that supports Home Keys, this allows hotels and businesses to roll out this feature for their guests and employees.