One could say that Apple AirPlay was the start of the wireless revolution that Apple is now taking us down with iCloud and the removal of wire-dependency, by allowing us to control our media universe from the palm of our hand through our iOS device (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad) or through iTunes on a computer. We have therefore put together this little guide to all things AirPlay for you.
What is Apple AirPlay
For those of you that might be new to the world of Apple gadgets and wireless streaming, Apple AirPlay lets you stream audio and video directly from your iOS device (requires iOS 4.2 or later) to a compatible sound system or Apple TV. All you need for AirPlay streaming to be possible is to have two or more devices supporting AirPlay, and have them connected to your WiFi or Ethernet connection.
You can even stream your music to different rooms simultaneously with Apple AirPlay, as long as you have compatible speakers/sound systems in each room that can receive the audio. The beauty of it is that all is controlled directly from your iOS device that you can carry with you. So no need for lots of separate remote controls or wires everywhere to connect your portable iOS device with.
What do you need to use AirPlay
To be able to use Apple AirPlay for streaming audio and video there are a few things that you need to have, such as:
- You need a compatible iOS device, such as an iPhone, iPod Touch or Apple iPad running iOS 4.2 or later, or alternatively use iTunes on your computer (iTunes version 10.1 or later). It is recommended upgrading to iOS 5 when it comes out this fall. Check out our Apple buyers guide for more information on buying an Apple iOS device.
- You need an Apple TV (2nd generation) or a compatible AirPlay sound system. If you want to stream video you must at the moment have an Apple TV 2 box, while there are a few different systems supporting AirPlay audio streaming (see below).
- You need all devices to be connected to a WiFi or Ethernet connection.
Here is a video from Apple demonstrating the use of AirPlay streaming.
There are alternative ways to utilize some AirPlay functionality by for example using An Apple AirPort Express adapter to enable AirPlay audio streaming to existing non-compatible speakers and sound systems, or to use applications such as AirServer that allows you set up your computer/mac as an AirPlay device you can then stream to.
Apple AirPlay compatible systems
At the beginning there was a very limited amount of systems supporting Apple AirPlay, but over recent months more have come onto the market with even more systems ranging from speaker docks to AV receivers in the pipeline.
Apple TV 2 (2nd generation)
If you want to be able to stream your videos directly from your iOS device or from iTunes to your television, then you will need a 2nd generation Apple TV, which currently is the only option for AirPlay video streaming.
There are limitations to streaming video over Apple TV, as it only supports content purchased or made available through iTunes Store, so streaming of other movies etc that you might have downloaded from other sources might need some work around before you are able to stream to your TV using AirPlay.
An Apple TV 2 can be purchased from amongst other Amazon UK from £91 – click here
AirPlay speakers and docking stations
Although some manufacturers were quick out the door to announce their AirPlay speakers, it took months before we saw the first systems reach the market, starting with the big one; the B&W Zeppelin Air, setting the standard for things to come really.
Number of systems in the market is still limited, but you can find out more about available AirPlay speakers and sound systems here.
AirPlay AV receivers
For the home theater enthusiast there are also a few AirPlay options when it comes to AV receivers, with well known brands like Denon, Marantz, Pioneer, and Harman jumping on the AirPlay train.
You can find an overview of AirPlay enabled AV receivers here.
What’s next for Apple AirPlay
While there are plenty of speculations around Apple and their plans to deliver televisions with built in iOS support (and AirPlay), possibly to be launched later this year, there are also improvements coming in iOS 5 to AirPlay.
iOS 5 will bring AirPlay mirroring functionality to the iPad 2 when it comes out later this fall. This new feature will allow you to mirror the entire screen of your iPad 2 onto your television (Apple TV required), allowing you to easily play games on the big screen or to share a website, pictures, facebook etc. easily with other people in the room.
Stay tuned, or should i say ‘streamed in’ for all the latest on Apple AirPlay.
Latest Apple AirPlay news
Geneva Sound has delivered some of the best compact box speaker docks on the market, including wireless versions. With their latest invention; the Geneva Sound Aerosphere, the company has changed up the design and created a modular wireless multi-room system that supports most devices.
There’s already some great AirPlay speakers in the market, but that does not mean there’s no room for more quality speakers. Wireless speakers was once again a hot ticket at CES 2014 in early January, although more bluetooth based ones than AirPlay speakers. But one AirPlay speaker to look out for in 2014 is the multi-functional Dream Audio Dream One.
Sony is aiming wide with their latest wireless speaker at CES 2014. as the Sony SRS-X9 supports most wireless streaming options, including high-res audio, AirPlay, Bluetooth, AptX and DLNA. Could this be the jack of all trades wireless speaker?
While there are plenty of AirPlay enabled audio devices in the market already, at CES 2014 Broadcom has announced a new Software Development Kit that will make it faster and easier for audio manufacturers to integrate AirPlay functionality for their devices.
Despite its minor flaws, I can’t help but love the Libratone Loop. For me it delivers in heaps where it matters the most; design and audio performance. The Loop looks great and sounds great, making up for the relatively high price tag compared to some of the more mainstream wireless speakers out there.