How to get started with AirPlay

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iOS: Apps with AirPlay controls: Under iOS 4.3 or later, apps can provide an AirPlay-selection control right in the app. This button, which looks like the AirPlay icon, is usually found next to the app’s volume-level slider. When you tap the button, you’ll see a list of all AirPlay receivers on your local network; tap one of those receivers, and after a few seconds of connection time, the app’s audio will begin playing through your AirPlay speakers. Note that when streaming audio from an iOS app, you can choose only a single AirPlay destination at any one time.

This iPhone screen shows a list of speakers and devices on the local network configured to receive AirPlay audio.

iOS: Other apps and systemwide audio: Some apps don’t provide an AirPlay-selection control; or perhaps you want to stream all of your iOS device’s audio, regardless of the app. In this case, you can take advantage of iOS’s systemwide AirPlay control. Double-press the Home button to access the task switcher, and then swipe to the right until you reach the volume slider; next to the slider is the standard AirPlay button. Tap it, and then tap the desired AirPlay destination.

Mac: iTunes audio: To stream your iTunes music, simply click the AirPlay button near the top left of the iTunes window (next to the volume slider), and then choose the desired AirPort destination. To send audio to multiple AirPlay-equipped devices simultaneously, click Multiple and then select the speakers you want to stream to; you can control the volume level of each speaker independently in this menu.

Mac: Streaming all audio: If you want to stream all of your Mac’s audio‚ not just iTunes‚ to a single AirPlay destination, open the Sound pane of System Preferences, switch to the Output screen, and then select your AirPlay destination in the list; after a few seconds, audio should stop playing through your Mac and start playing over AirPlay.

(Alternatively, you can press Option and click the systemwide volume icon in your Mac’s menu bar. This will reveal a list of output and input options; you can choose your AirPlay destination under Output Device.)

A couple caveats here: First, because of slight transmission delays, you may find that audio and video are out of sync if you’re watching video on your Mac while listening to the audio for that video over AirPlay. Second, whenever your Mac isn’t actively streaming audio, the AirPlay connection sleeps; once you start streaming audio again, it can take a few seconds to reconnect.

Airfoil for Mac lets you stream audio from any individual app.

Mac: Other individual apps If you want to stream audio from an app other than iTunes—say, an Internet-radio broadcast you’re listening to in Safari—but you don’t want to stream all your Mac’s audio, you’ll need to turn to third-party software. Rogue Amoeba’s $25 Airfoil for Mac lets you choose any currently running app on your Mac; that app’s audio is then streamed to the AirPlay destination(s) of your choosing. The included Airfoil Video Player even allows you to stream a video’s audio while keeping that audio in sync with the video playing on your Mac.

Video options and setup

If you have a recent Apple TV, you can also stream video over AirPlay from a recent Mac or iOS device. Specifically, you need a second- or third-generation Apple TV (one of the small, black models). However, the requirements for your Mac or iOS device differ depending on the type of video streaming you’re doing—I cover these requirements in "Streaming video," below.

To enable AirPlay (for video or audio) on your Apple TV, navigate to the Settings screen, select AirPlay, and then make sure that the AirPlay is set to On. To prevent just anyone from hijacking your Apple TV, you can choose between an onscreen code (which means that anyone who wants to stream to your Apple TV must first enter a code that appears on the TV screen) or a traditional password.

If you’d like to give your Apple TV a descriptive name, go back to the main Settings screen, select General, and then select Name. Choose one of the default names, or choose Custom to enter a custom name.

Streaming video

When you want to stream video to your TV, you should first turn on your television and make sure it’s set to the appropriate input for your Apple TV. Then use the procedure below that corresponds to your video source.

iOS: Video from individual apps Many video-oriented apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and Apple’s own Videos app, allow you to send the app’s video to an Apple TV. While a video is playing, just tap the AirPlay button (usually located next to the playback controls) and choose your Apple TV.

Alternatively, on any iOS device that supports AirPlay mirroring (see the next item), some apps—higher-end racing apps are a good example—can use AirPlay to display primary video on your TV while showing a secondary screen on your iOS device. Many of these games have an option in the app’s settings screen to enable AirPlay.

Whichever method the app uses, switching to your iOS device’s Home screen or to another app usually stops streaming.

iOS: Mirroring the device’s screen: If you have an iPhone 4S or later, an iPad 2 or later (including the iPad mini), or an iPod touch (fifth generation or later)‚ and you’re running at least iOS 5‚ you can instead mirror your device’s screen on your TV using AirPlay. When mirroring, everything you see on the device’s screen will appear on your TV, including the Home screen and any apps you’re using. This feature is more useful when your iOS device is in landscape orientation, as a landscape-orientation screen is a better match for today’s widescreen TVs.

To enable mirroring on an eligible iOS device, you double-press the Home button to access the iOS task switcher, then swipe to the right until you see the AirPlay button next to the volume slider. Tap the button, choose the desired Apple TV, and, finally, switch the Mirroring option to On.

Enabling AirPlay mirroring on an iPad

Mac: Streaming video from iTunes Most Macs that can run iTunes 10.2 or later support streaming iTunes-hosted video to an Apple TV. Just click the AirPlay button (in the upper left corner of the iTunes window, adjacent to the volume slider), and then choose the desired Apple TV. Now any video you play in iTunes will be shown on your TV instead of on your Mac; if a video is already playing in iTunes when you enable AirPlay, the video will stop playing in iTunes and, after a few-second delay, start playing on your TV.

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