Prevent AirPlay from Dropping Out

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Keep AirPlay Source Device Unlocked

AirPlay should work when a device is locked, but this isn’t always the case. It will function when playing music. In certain cases, AirPlay will stop video playback on a locked device. I’ve found that AirPlay is much more reliable when the source device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) is left unlocked.

Go to Settings > General > Auto-Lock and change it to Never. You can conserve battery life by turning screen brightness down all the way. Just remember to change the Auto-Lock setting back to your preferred setting. Using short Auto-Lock times can preserve battery life and reduce wear on the sleep/wake button.

It’s also best to leave your music app open and keep it on the Now Playing screen. This seems to give priority to music streaming and AirPlay processes. It also makes it easier to control music playback and view track information.

Device Placement Affects AirPlay Dropouts

AirPlay dropouts tend to happen when I walk in between my WiFi router and Apple TV. This flaw is exclusive to Apple TV 4. It seems to be a consequence of Apple’s AirPlay “overhaul”. AirPlay is faster, but less reliable, presumably due to a smaller buffer size. For whatever reason, their quality assurance process didn’t catch this problem. They don’t seem to be interested in fixing it either. Just accept it and try to make the best of it.

Device placement matters a lot when it comes to both the Apple TV unit and AirPlay source device. Make sure to place your Apple TV within range of your WiFi router. You can check WiFi signal strength by going to Settings > Network. Make sure you have at least 4 “bars”. (They’re actually circles on Apple TV. Think different!) Even though my Apple TV gets 5 “bars”, I still have AirPlay problems. Poor WiFi reception would exacerbate the problem.

If your WiFi reception is weak, consider placing your Apple TV in a different location. This may not be possible, as it needs to be hard-wired to your television. A WiFi range extender can help boost the signal. If your Apple TV is close enough to your router, you may want to consider connecting it using an ethernet cable.

Make sure to place your Apple TV in an open area, unobscured by cabinet doors or other obstacles. Placing your Apple TV higher up can also improve WiFi reception.

Placement of your source device can also influence WiFi reception and AirPlay reliability. The iPhone, iPad and iPod touch all have different WiFi modules and antenna configurations. I figured out the optimal placement of my old 2011 iPad 2 by looking at the iFixit teardown. I place my iPad with its WiFi module facing my router, and it seems to help. You can also use a free app such as Wi-Fi SweetSpots to determine optimal positioning. The app displays real-time data on WiFi connection speeds. My iPhone 6 works best when the top is pointing toward my router. next page →

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11 comments

  1. Have an iPAD Pro 11”, with NAIM MUSO & MUSO Qb
    MUSO is directly wired to the router, MUSO Qb using wifi.
    Airplay constantly stops after 4 hrs of contestant playing. I have super fast Internet / wifi speeds. Crap quality with AIRPLAY, tried the never setting in settings, doesn’t help one but. Doesn’t matter the APP being played (unless Apple TV, which does not cut out, go figure, Apple to Apple) But Airplay to anything else is horrible. Constantly unplugging replugging power to the audio units, restarting apps and iPad to get systems to work. Shouldn’t be this way. You spend mega dollars on Apple products, they should work. Airplay is a joke.

    1. Their Bluetooth implementation also sucks. I just switched from a flagship Android to an iPhone 13 Pro Max. I wanted to use an Android device for a year, just to see what they’re like. Overall, both devices demonstrate Apple’s recent decline in software quality.

      I completely gave up on AirPlay. If I play anything through my Apple TV, I use the Apple Music app. When I switched to Android, I bought a Harmon Kardon bluetooth adapter. It’s awesome, but I have more problems with my iPhone than I did with my Android. Also, in theory, Bluetooth doesn’t sound as good as AirPlay. I can still hear the difference between 24-bit and 16-bit lossless audio with my Harmon Kardon bluetooth adapter. AirPlay, however, supports higher bandwidth and should deliver better sound quality to a stereo system.

      Apple hasn’t done a great job of embracing the Bluetooth standard. They may be sabotaging it to some extent, to favor their own products, which extend Bluetooth capabilities. For example, AirPods and Beats headphones use W1 and H1 chips to maintain connectivity. I don’t understand why this is even necessary. My Android phone supported Bluetooth and it just worked!

      We both know why Apple wants its own “version” of Bluetooth — one enhanced with H1 and W1 chips. Proprietary lock-in is Apple’s business model. It’s an admission that they can’t compete on merit. They need to lock people in for them to buy Apple products.

      You spend mega dollars on Apple products, they should work.

      I know, right! They also constantly brag about product quality. The iPhone isn’t any better than a Chinese-designed and manufactured Android phone, that costs about 20% less and has three times as much RAM and 120Hz screens years ago.

      The only reason I bought an iPhone 13 Pro Max is to write for this site. Sadly, I tried to pivot into writing about Android. The problem is, it’s a fragmented field. There are so many Android devices, if you focus on one, you don’t have many readers. I also invested 10+ years in writing about Apple. It’s this domain’s authority.

      But yeah, having recently switched between Apple and Google’s ecosystem, I can honestly say, Apple isn’t all that. These companies have been ripping off each other’s smartphone tech for 15 years. They’re so similar, it’s not even funny.

      I still have my Android device, but I will sell it soon. I boot it up every once in a while to transfer over some photos or files before I wipe it out and sell it. These flagship Android phones made by Samsung and OnePlus had 120Hz refresh rate screens over three years ago. Apple just introduced this in it’s most expensive model, and it’s great. I can’t go back to 60Hz. Even though Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series processors aren’t as fast as Apple’s A-series, my Android phone is speedier and has fewer pauses. This is partly due to having three times as much RAM. A flagship Android device loads pretty much everything into RAM, so even with a slower processor, the experience seems faster, with fewer pauses. It’s frustrating that an iPhone 13 Pro Max is often slower than a two-year-old Android device that costs $200 less. I think the A-series chip is designed to win benchmarks more than provide a speedy user experience.

      Another thing about Apple is that none of their products tolerate the slightest deviation in Internet bandwidth. They seem to assume that everyone has the best Internet connection at home. I use my phone’s hotspot because I got so sick of Xfinity and the others. Nothing but problems and headaches. Most of my AirPlay problems were caused by poor Internet access, but this is also Apple’s fault. AirPlay runs on an internal Wi-Fi network, but even if you play downloaded music, it fails when one’s Internet connection is on the fritz. Why? If your Wi-Fi router is still supporting an internal network, why does AirPlay fail? My hunch is either DRM or shoddy engineering. I don’t think Apple’s QA even tests with real-world networking conditions.

      One thing Apple could do to improve product quality remarkably would be to make their products more robust in terms of Internet connectivity. Many of the pauses, dead air and crashes are due to momentary internet problems. Where’s the exception handling?

      The bottom line is, top engineers don’t go to Apple anymore. Their stock price is too high and there’s no IPO opportunity. The top grads go to startups or start their own companies. Apple doesn’t get the best and brightest anymore, and it shows.

  2. To Fix this issue go to Settings > General > AirPlay & Handoff > Automatically AirPlay to TVs > Change it to Never.

  3. This is a lot of rubbish. My ATV is a wired connection. Airplay dropouts galore. It has zero to do with lack of buffer. It’s simply yet another crappy coding job by Apple marketing. Marketing as I doubt they have any competent tech types still employed.

    1. Thanks for the new information. I never had the opportunity to test ethernet on my Apple TV, as I would have needed a very long cable.

      Apple engineering does the coding. Their marketing does the lying.

      Yes, Apple doesn’t attract top talent. The best and brightest go to startups. With Apple’s sky-high stock price and an uncertain future, it’s unlikely any new hire will make a fortune from stock options. The company is a mere shadow of what it was just three years ago.

      I switched back to Windows and bought an Android phone. Apple disgusts me. I bought my mom an iMac, the Fusion drive failed. I brought it in, with all of the new pandemic rule hassles, and they didn’t fix it properly. I have to bring it in again. I filed a complaint with the CA Attorney General, and Apple lied, saying that I didn’t give them a chance to fix it. They’re rotten to the core. A company I once admired has done nothing but alienate me with mediocre products, buggy code, horrid manufacturing, poor tech support and lies.

      You’d think after this ordeal with the iMac, they’d replace it or refund the money. They’re in clear violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, but their legal department essentially misrepresents the facts, because the consumer advocate will easily fold. They know I’m not going to hire a lawyer over a $1400 iMac. I am considering small claims court. Their violation of Magnuson-Moss is obvious and blatant. Not only did I bring in the computer for repair, their support experience amounts to undue duty to the customer.

      I absolutely can’t stand Apple. The way they pander to progressive politics, as they enslave overseas workers, by proxy (of course) always bothered me. With poor technology, Apple no longer has anything to offer me.

      Apple TV is about the worst Apple product ever made. It’s the C team. All they really care about is the iPhone and Messages. It’s all about Millennials and Gen Z taking photos of themselves. I think there’s a Steely Dan song about that…

  4. Before I upgrades to Apple TV 4 from 2 I never had a drop out issue. I have tried my Mac book, I phone and I pad and they all drop out. Apple have gone backwards

  5. I have lived in the Apple “world” since 1984, but I have to say that Airplay and the HomePod have been one of the greatest disappointments.

    Airplay which although proprietary could be great, but simply isn’t, suffering constant drop outs and no stereo output on a mac from anywhere except the Music app, and on a Mac different points to access it and control it, so reminiscent of the endless windows in the MS environment.

    I have a very powerful router and my homepods are all of 12 feet from it in the same room, but they are constantly dropping out, I have lost count of how many times I have reset them, restarted the router, the mac etc but nothing cures it, hit pause in Music and 9 times out of ten the only way to get the music back is to quit Music, restart the Mac, the Router and reset the HomePods, about 15 minutes each time. Try swapping between playing out of one Homepod only on say Amazon Music (No Stereo of course) and the Apple Music App and you are in for a load of grief.
    The sound quality from the HomePods is truly awesome, but everything else is unforgiveably poor, If only I could find a way of making a physical connection to them………..

    1. I don’t think Apple tests AirPlay under real world conditions. All they need to do is increase the buffer, and it would be flawless. But they seem to assume everyone has flawless WiFi and 300 Mbps Internet connections. AirPlay can be very frustrating. Apple Music also had a problem with dropouts. Both Spotify and Google Play Music are much more reliable.

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