Much-hyped SharePlay feature might arrive with iOS 15.1

The group-watch FaceTime feature has been added back to the latest iOS beta.

The latest version of iOS is officially available for all iPhone owners, but it’s missing a few notable features Apple promised. SharePlay, the group-watching feature coming to FaceTime, is one of the most notably absent features, thanks in no small part to Apple’s big hype about it at this year’s WWDC.

SharePlay was briefly available as part of the second iOS 15 beta, but subsequent beta releases — and the official iOS 15 release this week — have completely removed it. Apple hasn’t made any statement about why SharePlay was scrapped from the initial iOS 15 release, nor has the company told the public when to expect its addition.

Now it looks like SharePlay could be coming to iPhones as soon as they receive their next software update. The first beta of iOS 15.1 went out to developers Tuesday and, lo and behold, full SharePlay functionality has quietly been added back to the mix. So it shouldn’t be all that long before we get to try watching Netflix via FaceTime for ourselves.

All but certain — Though Apple removed SharePlay from the public beta version of iOS 15 earlier this summer, the feature was still available for developers with some finagling. At the time Apple released a separate development profile that could be used to test apps with SharePlay.

The version notes for the first iOS 15.1 beta makes it clear SharePlay is back for real. “SharePlay has been re-enabled in iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, and tvOS 15.1 betas, and no longer requires the SharePlay Development Profile,” the notes read. Apple says developers should download macOS Monterey beta 7 to test SharePlay with desktop apps.

That’s not exactly 100-percent confirmation that SharePlay will be available when iOS 15.1 releases to the general public — but it’s pretty close to it.

Full-featured FaceTime — iOS 15 includes a wide range of updates, but FaceTime is receiving the biggest overhaul by far. What was once a simple app designed for quick phone calls is now a genuine Zoom competitor. You can now schedule future calls on FaceTime; you can now even FaceTime people who don’t own an iPhone, something we never thought we’d be saying. Once SharePlay is available, there will be almost no casual video-chat use case where FaceTime won’t be a genuinely good solution.

Apple is still estimating that SharePlay will ship during the fall season, which essentially gives it until mid-December to show up on our phones. It’s possible we’ll see iOS 15.1 as soon as October, though — or, at least, that’s when iOS 14.1 came out last year. If Apple ends up removing SharePlay from yet another version of iOS, it’s probably not a great sign for the feature’s stability, though.