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AirPlay beams audio and video onto Apple TV 4, enabling access to a universe of content. This article examines using AirPlay with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Windows PC and virtually any computer.
Apps are central to the Apple TV 4 experience, but not everything is available. Spotify doesn’t offer a tvOS app yet. There are a lot of other holdouts, as content providers develop strategies for digital media and developers tackle the tvOS learning curve. The good news is that you don’t have to wait. You can use Spotify and other services by beaming them onto Apple TV using AirPlay.
What is AirPlay?
AirPlay is Apple’s wireless audio and video streaming technology. Using an iOS device or computer, users can beam video and audio content directly onto Apple TV.
Although AirPlay wasn’t the first wireless beaming technology, it is mature and feature-rich. Intel’s WiDi technology predates AirPlay by a few months, but it never gained traction. WiDi was only offered on select computers and users had to buy a TV appliance to facilitate wireless streaming. Unlike Apple TV, the WiDi receiver only served a singular purpose. WiDi only offered screen mirroring, which is just one aspect of AirPlay.
AirPlay is actually an evolution of AirTunes, which allowed iTunes users to wirelessly beam audio to external speaker systems. The first version of AirPlay, launched in 2010, expanded on this functionality, offering wireless streaming video. Users could still configure different AirPlay receivers. Third party companies such as Marantz, Pioneer and Yamaha quickly jumped on board, creating AV receivers with built-in AirPlay support. There are now hundreds of AirPlay compatible devices, however, Apple TV seems to be the most popular.
AirPlay has continued to evolve over time. In mid 2011, Apple added AirPlay Mirroring, enabling wireless beaming of the entire device screen onto Apple TV. This feature is essential to using AirPlay with apps that don’t directly support it. It’s a great way to enhance presentations and has useful implications for education and business.
Dual screen AirPlay functionality is another innovation setting it apart from the competition. Developers can create apps that display different content on the device and TV screen. This makes it possible to develop games where an iOS device functions as a controller while game play is displayed on TV. This AirPlay feature never really gained traction, with only a few apps supporting it. With the new Apple TV, tvOS and the App Store, there’s not much of a point to the dual screen AirPlay mode. AirPlay itself may become obsolete, but for now it is a useful workaround for beaming content that is not yet available natively on Apple TV.
Apple TV can also use AirPlay to connect to external speakers. This is useful if you want to improve your TV experience with external audio speakers. AirPlay works in so many different ways. The technology is feature-rich, flexible and has been imitated by competitors. Indeed, some inexpensive TV appliances only offer the ability to beam content from a device. Apple TV offers more options and choices than most other TV appliances.
Using AirPlay with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
AirPlay is built in to iOS. Apple’s mobile operating system offers the simplest way to beam content onto your Apple TV. There are a few ways of using AirPlay with an iOS device. Users can launch AirPlay from Control Center or turn the feature on within most supporting apps. It’s also possible to turn on AirPlay Mirroring, however, this must be done using Control Center.
Before you use AirPlay, you must be connected to the same WiFi network as your Apple TV or AirPlay target device. I also recommend turning on Bluetooth. Apple overhauled AirPlay in iOS 9, and the technology now uses Bluetooth to help maintain a better connection. Bluetooth is not required, but in my experience, AirPlay is faster and more reliable with it turned on. (continue…)