How to use AirPlay 2 on iOS: An in-depth analysis

Posted:
in iOS edited May 30
Multi-room audio may be the biggest feature of AirPlay 2, but it is far from the only new tricks AirPlay 2 has up its sleeve.





Out of the gate, only HomePod, Apple TV 4, and Apple TV 4K support AirPlay 2, though manufacturers are able to add support to their third-party speakers as well. Already Apple has outlined many upcoming speakers including those from Sonos, Pioneer, Libratone, Marshall and more that will gain support.

What can it do?

Chances are, you've heard of the headline features of AirPlay 2, namely multi-room audio and stereo pairing on the HomePod. That doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the true benefits of this impressive update.

Notably, there is now a substantially bigger streaming buffer. This helps reduce interruptions due to network issues. In our testing, this was very noticeable. Audio drops were down significantly from the original AirPlay.




Secondly, there is now tighter sync between devices, which reduces the lag quite a bit in most situations, and lends itself to multi-room audio. There can still be a bit of lag when starting/stopping a stream, but it is definitely less than in the past.

Siri is also better equipped for streaming audio. She can be asked to play/pause music on any AirPlay 2 speaker, regardless of the manufacturer. Your iPhone still stays in the middle with third-party speakers though, with audio going to the device first before being re-streamed to the speaker.

An extremely handy new feature is the ability to move audio. Just ask Siri on the HomePod to "move the music to the living room" and she will.

AirPlay is also now more independent. Instead of constantly being interrupted by a phone call, a game, or a video, AirPlay 2 can continue to stream in spite of all of this. These annoyances have plagued users for ages and these tweaks make it much more usable, especially compared to other smart speakers.

And, AirPlay 2 speakers are a part of HomeKit. Any AirPlay 2 speaker will appear within the Home app and can be assigned an individual room like any other accessory. Speakers can be played/paused from within the Home app, and included within favorites.

HomeKit support seems to end there though, as speakers still aren't able to be included in any scenes or automations. Amazon recently added music to routines and schedules with Alexa, putting Apple further behind in this regard. Hopefully, Apple remedies this soon.

How do I use it?




Using AirPlay 2 is as easy as the original. Swipe into Control Center on your iOS device, and tap the AirPlay icon within the music control.

Here, all of your AirPlay and AirPlay 2 speakers will appear. Any speaker that supports AirPlay 2 will have a circle aligned to the right, whereas original AirPlay speakers will have nothing.

Each speaker you select to cast to will be marked with a check within the circle. You can select as many AirPlay 2 speakers as you want, though they cannot be used at the same time as an AirPlay 1 speaker.

You can also access AirPlay from within any app that supports it. Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Audible, and many more all add a quick and easy AirPlay icon right within their apps.

Apple TV AirPlay 2


Apple TV is also AirPlay 2 ready now, so during any playing video a swipe down from the top brings down the info bar. Swiping to Audio shows any AirPlay 2 speakers that can be streamed to. If on the home screen, a long hold of the play/pause button will also bring up the AirPlay controls.

Limitations

AirPlay 2 isn't without its drawbacks. As mentioned before, third-party speakers can't stream directly, keeping the phone in the equation. If the phone ever dies or goes outside network range, the music will end.

As of now, Macs aren't invited to the AirPlay 2 party, still relying on the initial protocol. That means streaming audio to any AirPlay speaker -- even one that supports AirPlay 2 -- still has a substantial delay, making watching videos nearly impossible.

System audio can only be sent to one speaker at a time, but multi-room audio is still available within iTunes. We are making the guess this particular limitation has to do with the fact Macs currently don't support HomeKit. If the Mac should gain HomeKit support, say at WWDC, this could change.

Wren V5 AirPlay speaker wont be updated


For manufacturers of third-party speakers, AirPlay 2 is more demanding than in the past, which makes it impossible for some to be upgraded. Take the Wren V5, a popular AirPlay speaker. It doesn't have enough onboard memory, and won't get the advantages of AirPlay 2. A lot of uncertainty is going around as to what will be able to be upgraded and which speakers won't.

The biggest and most obvious limitation though is it is completely tied into the Apple ecosystem. Anyone rocking an Android handset will be completely left out in the cold. A few third-party speakers get to participate, but HomePod and Apple TV are still the shining examples of how it should work and have their own distinct advantages.

Music to our ears

Even though it was substantially delayed, AirPlay 2 is definitely worth the wait. Quicker connecting, larger buffer, multi-room audio and a HomePod that is finally starting to be competitive. This is another example of how Apple has tightly integrated their software and hardware, which really pays off for those who have embraced Apple's family of devices.

It will be interesting to see how quickly third-party speakers adopt Apple's latest streaming tech, with some promising updates within only one to two weeks.

Hopefully, we see more exciting news regarding AirPlay 2 speakers, as well as their integration with HomeKit, at WWDC18.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    igerardigerard Posts: 6member
    Hello

    what about the delay if working with GarageBand on the iPad? I guess not usable ?

    I tested with AirPlay 1 to the HP... a very big delay, several seconds.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,022member
    Does AIrPlay 2 allow multiple AirPods to be used at the same time as well?
  • Reply 3 of 16
    flagstoneflagstone Posts: 19member
    I don't think AirPods have anything to do with AirPlay 2 - AirPods are Bluetooth, while AirPlay 2 is over WiFi. Bluetooth is I think just point-to-point, so I don't think it supports (at least for audio) splitting like that.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 126member, editor
    mac_128 said:
    Does AIrPlay 2 allow multiple AirPods to be used at the same time as well?
    Hi there! AirPods actually aren’t related to AirPlay. AirPlay speakers are all actually over Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 126member, editor

    igerard said:
    Hello

    what about the delay if working with GarageBand on the iPad? I guess not usable ?

    I tested with AirPlay 1 to the HP... a very big delay, several seconds.
    Will test and get back to you.
  • Reply 6 of 16
    payecopayeco Posts: 117member
    It really sucks they’re not going to do one last update with the AirPort Express line to add AirPlay 2 support like the 11.4 betas seemed to indicate they would. With them being so cheap these days (you can get the 802.11n wall plug version for under $20 on eBay) they would make a great workaround to incompatible, older speakers by just connecting them to the aux port.
    edited May 30 fastasleeptokyojimuwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,428member
    payeco said:
    It really sucks they’re not going to do one last update with the AirPort Express line to add AirPlay 2 support like the 11.4 betas seemed to indicate they would. With them being so cheap these days (you can get the 802.11n wall plug version for under $20 on eBay) they would make a great workaround to incompatible, older speakers by just connecting them to the aux port.
    Yeah, was crossing my fingers as that’s my multiroom setup right now. It could still happen, but I’m  counting on it. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    payecopayeco Posts: 117member
    payeco said:
    It really sucks they’re not going to do one last update with the AirPort Express line to add AirPlay 2 support like the 11.4 betas seemed to indicate they would. With them being so cheap these days (you can get the 802.11n wall plug version for under $20 on eBay) they would make a great workaround to incompatible, older speakers by just connecting them to the aux port.
    Yeah, was crossing my fingers as that’s my multiroom setup right now. It could still happen, but I’m  counting on it. 
    Yeah I guess there is always a possibility. It would be nice because I’ve got a bunch of the 802.11n wall plug versions lying around. I picked up a lot of 10 of them for $100 on eBay about 6 months ago. I use them all over the house as cheap WiFi to Ethernet bridges so I can connect Ethernet only (and USB only in the case of my
    old printer) devices to WiFi. I’m surprised more people don’t pick them up used for this purpose because they’re super reliable and it takes literally 15 seconds to set them up in bridge mode.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,760member
    payeco said:
    payeco said:
    It really sucks they’re not going to do one last update with the AirPort Express line to add AirPlay 2 support like the 11.4 betas seemed to indicate they would. With them being so cheap these days (you can get the 802.11n wall plug version for under $20 on eBay) they would make a great workaround to incompatible, older speakers by just connecting them to the aux port.
    Yeah, was crossing my fingers as that’s my multiroom setup right now. It could still happen, but I’m  counting on it. 
    I use them all over the house as cheap WiFi to Ethernet bridges so I can connect Ethernet only (and USB only in the case of my old printer) devices to WiFi. I’m surprised more people don’t pick them up used for this purpose 
    I’m not surprised at all. When was the last time somebody released a networked device that didn’t support wifi?
    fastasleep
  • Reply 10 of 16
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 2,746member
    AirPlay of videos from the iPhone to the Apple TV 4th Gen. has been very jittery, even in a high-speed broadband environment for me. I wonder if things will improve with AirPlay 2.
    JosephAUwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,428member
    payeco said:
    payeco said:
    It really sucks they’re not going to do one last update with the AirPort Express line to add AirPlay 2 support like the 11.4 betas seemed to indicate they would. With them being so cheap these days (you can get the 802.11n wall plug version for under $20 on eBay) they would make a great workaround to incompatible, older speakers by just connecting them to the aux port.
    Yeah, was crossing my fingers as that’s my multiroom setup right now. It could still happen, but I’m  counting on it. 
    Yeah I guess there is always a possibility. It would be nice because I’ve got a bunch of the 802.11n wall plug versions lying around. I picked up a lot of 10 of them for $100 on eBay about 6 months ago. I use them all over the house as cheap WiFi to Ethernet bridges so I can connect Ethernet only (and USB only in the case of my
    old printer) devices to WiFi. I’m surprised more people don’t pick them up used for this purpose because they’re super reliable and it takes literally 15 seconds to set them up in bridge mode.
    The last AirPort update covered that model, so I'm just going to hope that they throw us a bone and do one last update for the owners of the previous AirPort express to bring those up to date, and include the older n's as well. I get they want everyone to buy HomePods now but you never know. :)
    Alex1NJosephAUwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 16
    payecopayeco Posts: 117member
    payeco said:
    payeco said:
    It really sucks they’re not going to do one last update with the AirPort Express line to add AirPlay 2 support like the 11.4 betas seemed to indicate they would. With them being so cheap these days (you can get the 802.11n wall plug version for under $20 on eBay) they would make a great workaround to incompatible, older speakers by just connecting them to the aux port.
    Yeah, was crossing my fingers as that’s my multiroom setup right now. It could still happen, but I’m  counting on it. 
    I use them all over the house as cheap WiFi to Ethernet bridges so I can connect Ethernet only (and USB only in the case of my old printer) devices to WiFi. I’m surprised more people don’t pick them up used for this purpose 
    I’m not surprised at all. When was the last time somebody released a networked device that didn’t support wifi?
    In my house I have the following that are either Ethernet only or USB only:

    1. Kēvo Plus hub
    2. Samsung SmartThings hub
    3. Philips Hue hub
    4. T-Mobile LTE microcell
    5. circa 2006 Brother laser printer
    williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,281member
    This is using Mac OS not iOS I realize but still Airplay2 ...  I just tested ATV 4K model with new MacBook Pro using Logic Pro X to see if I could play live and monitor through HiFi system connected via the ATV 4K.  No such luck, same exact delay as Bluetooth or Airplay 1.  Wired amplification, headphones in MBP or using built in speakers on MBP there is zero delay in monitoring.  I am bummed.
  • Reply 14 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,281member
    igerard said:
    Hello

    what about the delay if working with GarageBand on the iPad? I guess not usable ?

    I tested with AirPlay 1 to the HP... a very big delay, several seconds.
    I just tested ATV 4K model with new MacBook Pro using Logic Pro X to see if I could play live and monitor through HiFi system connected via the ATV 4K.  No such luck, same exact delay as Bluetooth or Airplay 1.  Wired amplification, headphones in MBP or using built in speakers on MBP there is zero delay in monitoring.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,022member
    mac_128 said:
    Does AIrPlay 2 allow multiple AirPods to be used at the same time as well?
    Hi there! AirPods actually aren’t related to AirPlay. AirPlay speakers are all actually over Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth.
    That’s too bad. I thought AirPlay uses low power BT as a “listening” method. So I can can connect multiple speakers to one device and control them individually, but still no way to connect multiple headphones to one device? I’d love to be able to connect multiple headphones to my Apple TV when it’s not appropriate to use my sound system, or turn the volume as loud as I’d like.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,428member
    MacPro said:
    igerard said:
    Hello

    what about the delay if working with GarageBand on the iPad? I guess not usable ?

    I tested with AirPlay 1 to the HP... a very big delay, several seconds.
    I just tested ATV 4K model with new MacBook Pro using Logic Pro X to see if I could play live and monitor through HiFi system connected via the ATV 4K.  No such luck, same exact delay as Bluetooth or Airplay 1.  Wired amplification, headphones in MBP or using built in speakers on MBP there is zero delay in monitoring.
    Not sure why you expected zero buffer in wireless audio.  
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