What is AirPlay? How to use Apple’s media-sharing feature

Samsung TV (airplay)
You can AirPlay content from an iPhone to a smart TV directly within a media player app.

  • Apple’s AirPlay feature allows users to stream videos, images, music, and other forms of media from an Apple device to another compatible device.
  • You can AirPlay content from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to an Apple TV or AirPlay-compatible smart TVs and speakers.
  • For AirPlay to work, both devices have to be on the same Wi-Fi network, ethernet cable, or within Bluetooth range.
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Apple introduced AirPlay as a feature over a decade ago, but it still remains one of the most convenient ways to share media across Apple devices and other compatible systems.

What is AirPlay?

AirPlay is a feature that allows Apple devices (commonly iPhones) to share media – like videos, images, and music – to other devices like TVs and monitors for dual screen mode, as long as they’re all within the same network. This means AirPlay can only work if both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, within Bluetooth range, or connected to the same router using an ethernet cable.

AirPlay1.PNG
This is what the AirPlay icon looks like.

For example, if you want to stream music to a Bluetooth speaker from your iPhone, AirPlay is a convenient way to do it. The same goes for videos: If you’re watching a YouTube video on your iPad but want to watch it on a bigger screen, AirPlay is the quickest way to maintain seamless viewing.

AirPlay is similar to Apple’s Airplay mirroring, but screen mirroring is typically used to copy an entire display to another device, like a projector or TV.

How to use AirPlay

  • From an iPhone to a TV: With the selected media open, find the AirPlay icon and select it. Under “Speakers & TVs” select the device you want to AirPlay the media to.
    AirPlay2.PNG
    Select the device under “Speakers & TVs.”

  • From an iPhone to a Mac computer: There is no direct way to AirPlay from an iPhone to a Mac, but you can download a third-party app or use Apple screen mirroring.
  • From a Mac computer to a TV: To AirPlay from a Mac to a TV, first make sure your Mac has AirPlay enabled using System Preferences.
    AirPlay4
    Make sure your AirPlay Display is enabled by selecting the name of the device.

  • From any Apple device to an Apple TV: Make sure the devices are all on the same Wi-Fi network. You’ll know if AirPlay is supported if you see the AirPlay icon.
  • From an Apple device to Roku: Before attempting to AirPlay, check to make sure your AirPlay-compatible Roku has AirPlay enabled and is connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

Advantages of AirPlay

  • AirPlay is one of the easiest ways to share and stream media from one device to a speaker, television, or projector.
  • If the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ethernet connection remains strong, content can be streamed rather seamlessly and without lag.
  • All new iOS devices support AirPlay, and the feature doesn’t require any setup or configuration like some other streaming outputs.

Disadvantages of AirPlay

  • AirPlay can only be used from one app at a time – this means you can’t stream a YouTube video to your Apple TV while also simultaneously streaming Spotify to a Bluetooth speaker.
  • Depending on your Wi-Fi connection, AirPlay can struggle and occasionally drop off or freeze entirely, which may require troubleshooting.
  • Perhaps the biggest con is that AirPlay is almost entirely exclusive to Apple; non-Apple devices may have to download additional software to use AirPlay.

How to troubleshoot when AirPlay isn’t working

If AirPlay isn’t working, you may need to troubleshoot the involved Apple or AirPlay-compatible devices, or even reset your Wi-Fi router. See our AirPlay troubleshooting guide for directions and further information.

How to AirPlay content to your Apple TV and mirror your phone or computer to a TV screenHow to use AirPlay to stream HBO Max on your TV from an iPhone or iPadHow to turn on AirPlay on a Mac computer, for screen mirroring on larger displays like an Apple or smart TVHow to use AirPlay on a Roku player to stream content from an Apple device

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