Another WWDC has come and gone, with this year’s batch of announcements dominated by the long-awaited Apple Vision Pro. As intrigued as I am by Apple’s AR/VR headset and other products introduced such as the MacBook Air 15-inch, the news that most grabbed my attention is SharePlay for CarPlay.
Granted, this update is a tiny matter in the grand Apple scheme of things, and it’s only one of the many new iOS 17 features announced at WWDC 2023. But unlike the very expensive Apple Vision Pro, which I personally can’t see any use for at the moment beyond watching Avatar 2 in 3D, SharePlay for CarPlay is something I absolutely will use.
CarPlay made a splash at WWDC when Apple previewed a dashboard prototype with CarPlay running the full show as opposed to being limited to a single screen. That expanded version was scheduled to launch in 2023, but WWDC 2023 came and went without any further mention aside from the iOS update that will let multiple passengers in a vehicle play music via SharePlay.
Here’s how the new feature will work. When one the best iPhones is linked to the dashboard of a CarPlay vehicle and the Apple Music app is running, the iPhones of other passengers will be prompted to join the listening session provided they have updated to iOS 17. At that point, they, too, will be able to control music playback, as well as contribute to a shared playlist. And while an Apple Music subscription is needed for the primary phone linked to CarPlay, it won’t be necessary for other passengers connecting via SharePlay to have an Apple Music subscription.
Playback control for passengers participating in the shared playback can also be carried out using Siri voice commands, which in my experience are very effective at finding a specific track. And since Siri itself is getting an update in iOS 17, you can now simply say “Siri” to initiate commands instead of “Hey Siri.” It’s about time!
SharePlay for CarPlay: making road trips manageable
Any CarPlay user who has been on an extended road trip knows the hassles involved with sharing control of music playback, especially with passengers in the back seat. Typically, you need to disconnect your phone from the car’s USB port and plug theirs in, which means losing your ability to use Maps for onscreen navigation, as well as make phone calls and send text messages hands-free.
As someone who has been in this situation many times driving on long trips with my kids, I know only too well the anxiety of giving up primary CarPlay control by disconnecting my iPhone and handing it over to a different phone – one that will be receiving a minimum of 15 Snapchat notifications per minute.
The current CarPlay situation with iOS 16 at least is a huge improvement over pre-CarPlay life, a time when we had to depend on making a Bluetooth connection to a vehicle’s onboard entertainment system. It was one thing for your own phone to connect via Bluetooth. Getting other passengers set up to make a Bluetooth connection with your vehicle could introduce a whole universe of next-level complications and frustrations, however, and that’s something you definitely don’t want to deal with when driving.
While I typically wait until an official iOS update is available, iOS 17 is a case where I am going to download the public beta as soon as possible and will do so specifically to take advantage of SharePlay for CarPlay. That’s because I have a road trip planned for July, which is when the beta version is expected to be made available. Being able to share in-car DJ duties without having to swap out hardwired iPhones will be an incredible quality of life improvement – something we expect from Apple – and it would be painful now to think of doing things any other way.
Along with SharePlay for CarPlay, Apple announced 6 new features coming to Apple Music. The updates include the Collaborative Playlists feature that will instantly make road trips with others more enjoyable, along with Song Credits, which provides some of the same extended artist and musician metadata found in Apple Music Classical. There are also enhancements coming to tvOS, which you can read about in our list of 4 great Apple TV 4K features announced at WWDC 2023.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.