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Apple TV 4 offers limited AirPlay capabilities without WiFi. This article explains how to use peer-to-peer AirPlay.
Peer-to-peer AirPlay was added to the third generation (rev A) Apple TV in 2014. The feature allows a subset of AirPlay features to function without WiFi connectivity. Peer-to-peer AirPlay works over Bluetooth instead of Bonjour, which requires a WiFi network. The feature also works with Apple TV 4.
Peer-to-peer AirPlay can come in handy, but it is limited and a bit quirky. It seems like just another indication that Apple has lost its “it just works” mojo. Nonetheless, peer-to-peer AirPlay can be useful on a “rainy day”.
Why Use Peer to Peer AirPlay?
Most people have unreliable Internet service providers. Corporations such as Comcast often exist in markets with no competition. They are notorious for poor service. It’s “normal” for me to experience at least 5 outages a month that last for at least two hours. As I write this article, my Comcast Internet service has been out for 24 hours. There was another day-long outage just a month ago, and an 8 hour outage two weeks ago. If you live in a major metropolitan area, this problem is usually worse.
The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the worst Internet access in the nation. It’s ironic, because it’s the tech center of the world. It’s home to Google, Apple, Oracle, Facebook, Twitter and many more tech companies. Unfortunately, the cobbler’s children wear no shoes. The SF Bay Area is also home to the worst Internet access. Steve Wozniak even contemplated moving to Australia for better Internet access. It’s that bad.
Peer-to-peer AirPlay can come in handy when your Internet service is offline. Although you can use AirPlay without an Internet connection, it’s very buggy. When I stream music without an Internet connection using WiFi AirPlay, I get regular audio dropouts every minute. Peer-to-peer AirPlay doesn’t do that.
You can even use a cellular data connection with peer-to-peer AirPlay! Before you get too excited, there are some limitations. Don’t expect to be streaming Netflix over a peer-to-peer AirPlay connection. You can, however, stream music and, in some cases, video using peer-to-peer AirPlay.
Road warriors and corporate users may increase productivity with peer-to-peer AirPlay. The technology supports AirPlay screen mirroring, making it easy to put on a presentation, even if you can’t access a WiFi network.
Music fans can also enjoy a better experience using peer-to-peer AirPlay. Apple overhauled AirPlay in tvOS and iOS 9. Unfortunately, they seem to have drastically reduced the buffer size. Whenever I walk in between my Apple TV and WiFi router, I get an audio dropout with WiFi AirPlay. (This never happened with my Apple TV 2, which was in the same location and used the same AirPort extreme WiFi router.) When I play music using peer-to-peer AirPlay, I never get chunks of dead air. (I can see why a lot of people prefer vinyl. It just works!)
Who knows when Apple will fix AirPlay? After all, they are pushing their own music service, and AirPlay is a conduit for competitors like Spotify, Tidal and Google Play Music. They could have used peer-to-peer AirPlay as a failover for standard AirPlay, making it rock solid. They didn’t. Apple doesn’t seem interested in improving AirPlay, as there is no return on investment. In fact, it may hurt their bottom line. Apple wants you to get your Apple TV content from the App Store. AirPlay allows you to bypass that. Enjoy it while it lasts. My hunch is that AirPlay will eventually be discontinued, just like multiple USB ports on the MacBook.
System Requirements for Peer to Peer AirPlay
Peer to peer AirPlay doesn’t work with every Apple TV, Mac or iOS device. You need a late-model Apple TV 3 rev. A. This model will bear the number A1469 on the bottom. Older third generation Apple TVs do not support peer-to-peer AirPlay. Your Apple TV 3 must also have version 7.0 (or later) of its operating system installed. All Apple TV 4 models support the feature. You also need a 2012 (or later) Mac running OS X 10.10 (or later) or a 2012 (or later) iOS device running iOS 8 (or later). I tried it with my iPad 2, and it doesn’t work. It works just fine with my iPhone 6. (continue…)