When Apple announced iOS 17 during its WWDC event in June 2023, there was a lot to take in. But one feature, in particular, will have jumped out at anyone who takes regular road trips — especially if they have kids. With SharePlay coming to CarPlay, Apple Music lets people create a collaborative playlist for the ride. Here’s how to use CarPlay’s new SharePlay feature, and why it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
This guide will take you through the steps needed to get a SharePlay session up and running. It’s generally as easy as scanning a QR code, but there are caveats to keep in mind.
With that warning out of the way, here’s how to use SharePlay the next time you’re listening to music in the car.
Getting started with SharePlay
Beta software, also referred to as a preview, seed, or release candidate, is a version of the software still under development and not yet released to the public. This software is intended only for installation on development devices registered under your Apple Developer Program membership. Registered development devices can be upgraded to future beta releases and the public version of the software. Attempting to install beta software in an unauthorized manner violates Apple policy and could render your device unusable and necessitate an out-of-warranty repair. Make sure to back up your devices before installing beta software and install only on devices and systems you’re prepared to erase if necessary.
Getting up and running is pretty easy, assuming you’re already all set up for CarPlay. Consult your car’s documentation if you aren’t yet using CarPlay at all, but assuming that’s squared away you’re almost there.
- Connect your iPhone to your car using a cable or via wireless CarPlay if your car supports it
- Launch the Now Playing screen and tap the SharePlay icon
- A new screen shows the beginnings of a new SharePlay and CarPlay session as well as a QR code for people to scan to get the ball rolling. There’s also a toggle to allow your contacts to connect to your session, too
Joining a SharePlay session via CarPlay
Connecting to an in-progress SharePlay session begins by scanning the QR code on the car’s display.
- Scan the SharePlay QR code using your iPhone’s Camera app
- Follow the on-screen instructions on your iPhone. You’ll be prompted to connect to the SharePlay session, with Apple saying that « you’ll be able to control what’s playing in Apple Music from your phone »
- Once connected, you’ll see the current playlist and be able to add your own songs just as if you were playing music on your own iPhone
Apple SharePlay and CarPlay — the caveats
Using CarPlay is a great way to stay safe while driving and still have access to navigation apps, music apps, and a whole bunch of other services. And initially, I’d expected SharePlay support to revolutionize my family’s road trips. But perhaps not.
At this point, it’s important to remember that this is being written while iOS 17 is in beta form, and things could change between now and the shipping version that’s likely to arrive in September. But things might not change at all, either.
The first issue I came across during testing was that child Apple IDs don’t appear to be able to join a CarPlay SharePlay session right now. It isn’t clear whether that’s a limitation of the beta, a bug, or a decision Apple has made. But using my son’s iPhone (running the iOS 17 beta) to connect to my iOS 17 iPhone simply didn’t work. That severely limits the feature’s functionality and means that kids will still have to bark orders for their favorite song to be added to the playlist. Hopefully, this is a bug rather than a feature.
The second issue is one that I expect to change. Right now, SharePlay only works via CarPlay when you’re using Apple Music. Our family, for reasons that are long and boring, uses a combination of Spotify and Apple Music. Right now, Spotify is a no-go and my assumption is that will change eventually.
Other issues can hopefully be put down to the beta status of the software, so it’s unfair to go too deeply into them here. They include SharePlay only working for a handful of songs before needing to reconnect, for example.
A work in progress with some promise
At the risk of repeating myself, this is still beta software. And Apple can improve things yet further post-iOS 17 release as well. But the promise is undoubtedly there. As you’ll notice by the lack of steps above, getting a SharePlay session up and running is almost comically easy. And being able to have others in the car choose songs without giving them your iPhone — or worse, resorting to using Siri — is a huge step forward.
If Apple can sort out whatever is happening with child Apple IDs and nail its little bugs, using SharePlay via CarPlay could become one of the best quality of life improvements to come to the iPhone this fall.