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What is AirPlay? Everything you have to Know.

what is airplay

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Apple introduced AirPlay 10 years ago when they released iOS 4.0, a great way to enjoy music, movies, pictures, etc., on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac to the big screen or your home theatre.

Even though it’s been around for quite some time, many people still need to become more familiar with what it is and how to use it. This article explains what AirPlay is, how it works, how to set it up, and how to use it.


In 2004, Apple introduced Airtunes when they released iTunes version 4.6. It allows music to be streamed from one computer to another through Wi-Fi within the same network.

With the introduction of the iPhone 5s in 2010, Apple introduced a new version of iOS4.2 with the new Airtunes feature, which was renamed “AirPlay Mirroring.” It supports audio, and video streaming to the AppleTV and later added mirroring and support for a wide variety of third-party Airplay compatible speakers and AV equipment.

On June 5, 2017, Apple announced AirPlay 2 during its annual WWDC conference, which planned to be released alongside iOS 11 in the third quarter of 2017 but delayed until June 2018. Apple has improved how audio is streamed from an iOS device to speakers. It now supports streaming stereo audio to speakers at once. You can stream audio to multiple devices in different locations, which wasn’t possible before. And you can use the new features in the Home app and Siri to play music without opening up iTunes.


What is AirPlay?

AirPlay is Apple’s wireless display standard that allows you to stream audio, video, and photos from Apple sender devices (typical iPhone, iPad, and MacBook) to AirPlay receivers (Apple TV, speakers, and other devices) within the local network.

How does AirPlay Work?

Just like a Wireless video extender which includes a wireless video transmitter for encoding and a wireless video receiver for decoding, the Airplay devices also have an AirPlay sender and an AirPlay receiver.

Initially, iOS devices were required to be connected to the same network. Since late 2017, AirPlay has supported Wi-Fi Direct features, which allow devices to connect directly without a network.

AirPlay Sender device includes computers running iTunes, and iOS device such as iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Macs (OS X 10.6 or later) can send AirPlay over wireless networks or wired connections.

AirPlay Receiver devices with an audio or video decode ability can receive the files streamed from AirPlay Sender for playing, such as Apple TV, HomePod, or other AirPlay compatible third-party speakers.


To realize the information streaming function between Apple products, Apple has formed the AirPlay protocol. With this protocol, Apple products can automatically discover each other and transmit music, pictures, and video files. In addition, AirPlay also develops an AirPlay Mirroring function, which can cast the whole screen of the iOS devices onto a larger screen display to realize the “wireless screen projection” effect.

Apple developed an AirPlay protocol based on mDNS(Multicast Domain Name Server ) and DNS-SD (DNS Service Discovery) protocol. To automatically find network protocols for devices and services, Apple has implemented the framework of Apple’s digital home network based on both protocols. The mDNS protocol defines the basics of information between devices using multicast technology in the sending and receiving rules. Based on the mDNS protocol, the DNS-SD protocol stipulates the complete service process.

Only the device’s type of mDNS to be sent can be fully declared and described in its service.

When the DNS-SD protocol is used to realize the discovery and description of devices and services, Apple’s AirPlay protocol specifies the transmission and control message format of pictures, audio, and video, thereby realizing media sharing and collaborative actions between smart devices.

To put it simply:

In the local area network, the device is discovered through UDP multicast; the handshake is carried out through TCP, the TCP link is established, and the communication starts.

What airPlay pushes is not the playback URL but the video stream and audio stream parsed by the mobile device. That is to say, in the airPlay push process, AppleTV does not download the video by itself but receives the information sent by the mobile phone. This is why airPlay will stop when the object carrying airPlay is destroyed.

Devices Compatible with AirPlay

Many third-party devices support the AirPlay protocol, such as AV receivers, stereo systems, and speaker systems from Yamaha, Sony, Philips, Sonos, Pioneers, and Bose.

Bluetooth headsets and speakers with the A2DP profile also appear as AirPlay devices when they’re connected to an Apple device. Still, Bluetooth isn’t a wireless networking protocol, so there’s no need for wireless network access points.

At CES 2019 in Las Vegas, TV manufacturers Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony unveiled their TV plans with built-in support for Apple’s new AirPlay 2 wireless streaming technology.

[20] LG announced that its 2019 OLED televisions would be AirPlay 2-compatible.

On September 30 September 30, 2020, Roku announced that they would be adding AirPlay 2 support for their 4K Roku devices. On April 21, 2020, the 10.0 software update was released for Roku devices.

All ViewPlay wireless conference systems also support AirPlay2 functions, list as below:

However, because not all third-party receivers support Apple’s DRM, it can’t support YouTube, Netflix, or other similar Apps.

AirPlay vs Airplay2, What's the Difference?

Apple announced AirPlay 2 on June 5, 2017, bringing some much-needed technological improvements.

The most significant change in AirPlay 2 is that it allows you to stream audio wirelessly from your iOS devices to multiple speakers simultaneously, eliminating the previous lag time between rooms.

You can now use Apple TV 4K or HomePod to listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, sports games, and more throughout your home, making it easier than ever to keep up with what’s playing across different rooms. You can set up group rules to control volume levels and playback schedules to ensure everything plays perfectly together. This makes it possible to play the same song on multiple speakers without waiting for each one to finish playing.

With AirPlay 2, you don’t have to worry about buffering anymore. Everything automatically syncs up when you switch to a different app or turn on an additional source.

With AirPlay 2, Apple TV functions more like a home audio system like Sonos.

If you subscribe to Apple Music, You can also control your playback remotely via Siri; you can tell Siri to play a song, artist, or playlist, as well as what room or rooms to play it in: “Hey Siri, play Taylor Swift in the living room.” And if you say, “Hey Siri, turn down my kitchen speakers,” she’ll lower the volume in the room.

In addition to these significant improvements, Apple says that AirPlay 2 offers better sound quality, lower latency, and less interference.

In addition to those features, AirPlay 2 supports Bluetooth 5 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. There are also minor changes to the app’s work, including improvements to the Home screen and better integration with third-party apps like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

AirPlay 2 looks like an attempt by Apple to compete with Chromecast, but still with some differences.

Usually, Chromecast transmits content from the cloud directly. You use your smartphone to control your music player, but after that, it plays everything by itself; your phone becomes nothing more than a remote. With most speakers, Apple’s new AirPlay 2 system works by using your iPhone or iPad as the source device, so if you turn off your iPhone or its power goes out, your music stops playing.

When you play music from your HomePod using AirPlay 2, it gets the music from the Apple Music server directly from the internet for playback. Your iPhone serves as a remote controller, just like Chromecast.

And since AirPlay 2 supports 4K resolution, you can easily view high-resolution images, videos, and graphics without downloading them first. And thanks to keeping Dolby Atmos soundtracks, you can take advantage of the surround sound capabilities of your home theater system.

How to use AirPlay?

You can easily set up AirPlay with just a few taps. Let’s take ViewPlay wireless conference system, SmartShare Plus, as an example to show you how to use AirPlay.

1. Connect the wireless conference system receiver with your TV or projector by HDMI cable.

2. Connect the wireless conference system receiver with your home or office network.

3. Search RX SSID and connect with the iOS devices. (SSID: RXxxxxx, Password: 12345678), the SSID is shown in the upper left corner of the screen.

Remark: if the RX already connects with your office network, and the iOS devices are in the same network, in this case, it’s no need for the iOS devices to connect with the RX SSID.

4. Tap the AirPlay function, and select the RX SSID in the list. The screen will stream to the RX.


For more information, please refer to below links:

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