Apple adds SharePlay, prettier Aussie Maps and new Music Voice plan

Mac owners can finally watch TV, listen to music and play games with family and friends over FaceTime, as Apple adds SharePlay to macOS Monterey 12.1.

As people struggled to stay in touch during lockdown, Apple released SharePlay for iOS 15 devices.It embraces the “watch party” concept, which allows people in different places to easily watch content in sync. Major streaming services like Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu also introduced watch party features, while Chrome plugin Teleparty works with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and HBO.

Watch party services don’t involve content sharing, each person in the party requires their own access to the content that everyone is listening to, watching or playing.

Now, Apple is bringing SharePlay to macOS Monterey 12.1, allowing FaceTime watch parties with up to 32 participants across Apple’s macOS and iOS devices.

Shared controls give everyone in the party the ability to pause, play, rewind or fast forward while everyone’s stream remains in sync. Smart volume automatically lowers the audio of a movie, TV show or song when someone speaks, so people can still talk to each other over FaceTime. Split View makes it easy to arrange windows, so you see the FaceTime video call and movie side-by-side.

SharePlay was designed to work with first-party apps like Apple TV, ‌Apple Music‌ and Fitness+, but Apple also offers an API for developers, so third-party apps can also use ‌FaceTime‌ for shared games and other experiences.

Support for Apple Music Voice Plan

Along with adding SharePlay to macOS Monterey 12.1, the update also includes support for the Apple Music Voice Plan, new safety features for children and parents in Messages, redesigned Memories in Photos and more.

The new $5.99 per month Apple Music Voice Plan can only be accessed via Siri. It offers access to the service’s full catalogue of 90 million songs, with tens of thousands of playlists. This includes hundreds of brand-new mood and activity playlists, personalised mixes and genre stations, as well as Apple Music Radio.

Subscribers can request music across all of their Siri-enabled devices, including HomePod minis, AirPods, iPhones and Macs, as well as when using CarPlay. They have full playback controls, including unlimited song skipping through Siri.

Unlike some cheaper/free streaming music services, Apple Music Voice Plan users can also request specific albums to play from start to end. The new service does lack a few of Apple Music’s advanced features such as Spatial Audio, Lossless Audio, Lyrics and Music Videos.

New Australian maps

Meanwhile, Apple has also rolled out all-new Maps across Australia for iOS. Maps now features more detailed road coverage, better navigation, three-dimensional landmarks and new features like Look Around and Share ETA.

In addition to the new map, Siri Natural Language Guidance offers more natural-sounding directions which are easier to follow, such as “At the next traffic light, turn left”.

Lane guidance helps eliminate wrong turns and directional misses, while Speed cameras let users know when approaching speed and red-light cameras along a route. 

Additional features in Maps include:

  • Favourites provides one-tap navigation to frequent places. Whether it’s home, work, the gym, or school, users can simply tap and go once it’s in Favourites on the launch screen.
  • Flyover offers a way to see select major metro areas with photo-realistic, immersive 3D views. Users can move their device through space to experience a city from above, or explore in high resolution as they zoom, pan, tilt, and rotate around the city and its landmarks.
  • Indoor Maps for airports and shopping centres make it possible for users to simply open the Maps app and see what level they’re on, restroom locations, and even which stores and restaurants are open.
  • Flight status uses on-device Siri intelligence to scan for information stored in Mail, Calendar, or Wallet, and proactively serves flight information for terminals, gate locations, and departure times, as well as flight changes or cancellations for upcoming travel.