What is AirPlay? Everything You Need to Know

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what is airplay
If you are an Apple user, especially a new one, you may have heard the word AirPlay quite often and may be wondering how to use it. This article will take you through everything you need to know about AirPlay.

What is AirPlay?

AirPlay debuting originally as AirTunes in 2004. AirPlay is a wireless protocol, owned and designed by Apple, which allows you to transmit audio and video signals from one Apple device to another, although some other devices now are AirPlay-enabled as well. Essentially, AirPlay allows you to stream content ranging from photos and music to screen sharing while allowing every type of content to retain its metadata.

For instance, you can cast a video from your iPhone to your TV if you want to watch it on a larger screen. You can also stream from an iPad, iPod touch, or MacBook. If you want to stream from a Windows PC, you do that through iTunes. You just need to make sure that your device has a relatively recent operating system.

The general requirements are as such. For an iPhone, it needs to be 3GS or a later model, you can use iPod Touch only for iPods, and for computers, you need to have iTunes 10.2 or later. All of these devices must have iOS 4.2 or higher. For the devices that you will be streaming to, you can use Apple TV or AirPort Express. You can also use any other speakers or consoles that are AirPlay-enabled. Lastly, remember that AirPlay needs Wi-Fi as it uses your local network.

What is Airplay 2?

AirPlay has a successor has well – the latest version called AirPlay 2 – which allows you to stream audio to multiple rooms at the same time, or just one of these rooms; you can decide which. It also allows you to pair speakers.

AirPlay 2 vs Bluetooth

Bluetooth is what usually comes to most people’s minds when it comes to listening to music wirelessly. And why not? After all, Bluetooth is built into almost every smartphone on Earth, as well as a large number of tablets, PCs and, laptops. But get this, AirPlay 2 actually does a lot more than Bluetooth. The differences are subtle though, and once you learn how to use AirPlay and AirPlay 2, you’ll understand.

How to Use Airplay

Whether you use AirPlay via a Mac or an iPhone, the process is more or less similar, so we’re going to look at it in terms of the different situations in which you could use AirPlay – after all, streaming audio and video sounds pretty vague on its own.

Here are some things you could do with AirPlay: watch Netflix by using the app on your phone and streaming it to you Apple TV using AirPlay, or watch YouTube with better sound by again streaming from the app on your phone to an Apple TV that gives you a more immersive experience. You can use AirPlay 2 when you’re with friends – stream content directly to a larger TV instead of having a bunch of people huddle around a laptop screen, or if you’re having a party you can hook up every room with music using AirPlay 2 and the Spotify or Apple Music app on your phone; given that you have wireless speakers in every room.

Now let’s look at the instructions for these examples specifically.

Streaming From Your iPhone to your Apple TV

This is simple enough. Just swipe up to the iOS Control Center on your phone and tap the Screen Mirroring icon. The window that pops up will let choose your target, which is your Apple TV in this case. That’s pretty much it; your iPhone’s screen will now be displayed on your TV. You can turn your phone sideways to change the vertical orientation displayed on your TV and vice versa.

Streaming Music to a Wireless Speaker

You can try this using the Apple Music app or, again, another one like Spotify. Once you’ve picked a song or album to play, you can tap the AirPlay Audio icon that appears on the Now Playing screen. Next, pick your speakers as the target audio device and hit the play button. The AirPlay Audio icon will show you which room you’re connected to. You can adjust any setting you want by going to the AirPlay icon in the Control Center.

Streaming Audio to Speakers While Watching YouTube on your iPhone

You can keep watching videos on your handheld device and only stream the audio from them to external wireless speakers – this will create a more immersive experience. Once you have the YouTube app open and have picked a video to play, you can tap the AirPlay Video icon that appears in the bottom right corner of the video window, and choose your speaker or speakers as the target audio device. You can again change or adjust settings for this from the Control Center.

Streaming Audio from an Apple TV to Wireless Speakers

This category is different from the others because here, you can use an Apple TV or an Apple TV 4K as a sender for AirPlay instead of as a receiver, although this only works for audio. You’ll be using AirPlay 2 for this most likely, so it’s best to have some AirPlay 2 compatible speakers like Apple’s HomePod. Once you’ve selected the movie or show you want to watch, swipe down on your Apple TV remote and select Audio. You can now select the speaker or speakers that you want to stream the audio to.

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