What is AirPlay? Apple’s streaming tech explained


Need to know more about Apple’s wireless streaming software, AirPlay? Here’s a brief history of the protocol and how it’s been used.

AirPlay is Apple’s version of casting video or audio to another device. It works similarly to Chromecast functionality but is limited to being cast from Apple devices. Its history goes a little deeper than that, as the protocol has been around since 2004 and has evolved as time has marched forward.

AirPlay explained

Once called ‘AirTunes’, the feature was later rebranded as AirPlay in 2010. It was originally designed so that iTunes could use your network to beam over to an AirPort Express, connected to a pair of speakers.

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From here, the need for an AirPort Express was reduced, as Apple began to open the boundaries outside of its own products. It wasn’t until it launched on iOS devices in version 4 that it would support video being cast to an Apple TV.

AirPlay 2

In 2018, AirPlay 2 was released and so was support for non-Apple products. Examples include things like certain Roku sticks now have it embedded in, allowing streaming of content on a more open basis.

Companies that adopted it included Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio, who all embedded it into their TVs from 2019 onwards.

AirPlay, once set up, can be controlled from a singular device, as well as through Siri, rather than being limited to macOS and Windows via iTunes. This coincided with the reduced need for iTunes in Apple’s ecosystem.

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macOS becomes a receiver

You can now even use your Mac with macOS Monterey to stream content from your phone and iPad straight to the Mac, saving you time and effort in grabbing an Apple TV to stream off of.

Once hooked up over HDMI to another device, you’ll be able to mirror screens, cast content, and more over the device. We also were surprised to find it in the XGIMI projector we reviewed a while ago.