Business News Digital

Apple adds group music listening in FaceTime update

By | Published on Tuesday 8 June 2021


Apple yesterday unveiled the latest version of its iOS operating system, which, among other things, will allow users to sync their music listening with friends while making FaceTime calls. So that’s nice.

The new feature – called SharePlay – will allow iPhone users having a nice little chat to sync other apps on their phones, iPad, Mac or Apple TV devices.

At launch, the focus is largely on video apps, with Disney+, Hulu, TikTok and Twitch among those already signed up to get involved. But it will also work with Apple Music too, meaning everyone on the call can listen to the same track simultaneously, playing on their own device, either as background noise or – as is correct – in absolute reverential silence.

FaceTime is also being updated so that calls can be made to people not on Apple devices, via Zoom-style links. Presumably in a bid to claw back a bit of market share from Zoom. Those tuning in from other devices won’t be able to join in with any of the SharePlay fun though, obviously.

Spotify launched its own group listening feature just over a year ago. Of course, if you want to talk to people while doing that, you need to use a separate app to call them. That means you don’t get SharePlay features like volume-dipping when someone is speaking. Not that anyone should be speaking, as I think we already agreed.

Apple is opening up an API for SharePlay though, which means that third-party developers can include the functionality in their own apps. It remains to be see if Spotify – or any other streaming services – do this. Or how they integrate it if they do. I don’t know if they can set it to turn the volume up if someone talks.

Spotify’s existing group listening feature requires all involved to have premium accounts. Apple will allow developers to to set their SharePlay options so that only one person on the call needs to be a paying subscriber. Though for Spotify et al that would rely on their music licences allowing such a thing.