Earlier this month at Apple’s WWDC, it introduced iOS 11, the next generation of its mobile operating system. With it comes a huge array of innovations which will help keep iOS competitive against Android O. One of these vital changes is AirPlay 2, a feature which enables a user to stream video and audio from an iPad, iPhone or Mac to a compatible device. Here’s everything you need to know about this upgrade so that when you’re ready, you can use it with ease.
Before we go into some detail about what’s new, and also device compatibility, here’s some background on AirPlay. It was first introduced by Apple in 2010; previously, it had been called AirTunes. However, unlike AirPlay, that now-defunct software was only able to stream audio. The screen mirroring feature first made its way onto iOS in 2011, and it has received many small updates since.
As for why you would want to use either AirPlay or AirPlay 2, Apple’s closed system doesn’t allow for general Bluetooth streaming. So to use either version on an Apple device, you need a sender and receiver. The sender can be an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, and the receiver can be an Apple TV or third-party compatible device. However, one thing that all the connected devices must have in common is that they are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
AirPlay 2: what’s new?
While we did manage to get a glimpse of AirPlay 2 at WWDC, it wasn’t the main focus of the event, so most people are in the dark. But suffice it to say that with this update, Apple is moving into multi-room streaming, meaning that it wants you to be able to stream music from your iPhone or iPad into more than one room using more than one receiver.
This is the first major update AirPlay has had for a few years; some had thought Apple would replace it. However, that line of thinking was obviously inaccurate, as this update breathes new life into it. Now it may be able to compete with other streaming devices such as the Chromecast or even Bluetooth, although, considering that it is still limited to Apple devices, by its very nature, it is limited.
How does it work?
AirPlay 2 can stream audio wirelessly from your device to a compatible set of speakers on the same Wi-Fi network. This can be controlled via the Control Center on your device, Apple TV boxes, or iTunes. However, what’s great about this upgrade is that you can individually define what audio is streamed to individual speakers. All you have to do is define what speaker is where, such as Living Room, Dining Room or Kitchen, followed by either playing the same audio to all or a selection of different tracks to each.
However, the most important part of any AirPlay 2 setup is compatibility, each device connected to the Wi-Fi network must be compatible. If they are, you will be able to connect to each device no matter where you are in your home.
AirPlay 2 device compatibility
All devices on this list are or will be compatible with iOS 11; this includes the beta. However, it is advised that you wait until it has become publicly available.
iPhone compatibility: 7 Plus, 7, 6s, 6s Plus, 6, 6 Plus, SE, 5s.
iPad compatibility: first-generation 12.9-inch Pro, second-generation 12.9-inch Pro, 9.7-inch Pro, 10.5-inch Pro, fifth generation iPad, Air, Air 2, Mini 2, Mini 3, Mini 4.
iPod Touch compatibility: sixth generation iPod Touch.
Apple TV compatibility: fourth generation Apple TV.
MacBook compatibility: Late 2009 or after, Air 2010 or later
MacBook Pro compatibility: MacBook Pro 2010 or later.
iMac compatibility: iMac / iMac Pro: Late 2009 or later.
So those are the devices that are AirPlay 2-compatible, and it’s clear that it is not compatible with devices more than seven years old.
Third-party audio systems compatible with AirPlay 2
As you may have already imagined, AirPlay 2 will be compatible with Apple’s HomePod out of the box, so that setup will be straightforward. However, when it comes to third-party speakers, it’s not so straightforward. Popular devices on the market such as those from Libratone and Niam are already compatible with the first generation of AirPlay, and it is thought that they will get second-gen support as well. There’s still a number of others that have also indicated that AirPlay 2 will work with their products. It’s just not known if an update will be required or if they are ready to go now.
Current Bowers and Wilkins speakers are not compatible, but the company has indicated that a new line of products will soon launch with support. If you’re looking for a speaker with AirPlay 2 support now, the companies below are those that may be able to help.
- Bang & Olufsen
- Definitive Technology
In addition to those above, if you have a fourth-gen Apple TV box running on tvOS 11. Any speaker connected will work with AirPlay 2.