- AirPlay allows you to stream media between Apple and smart devices.
- You can AirPlay 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 or within Bluetooth range.
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.
Here’s a complete guide to AirPlay, how it works, and the best ways to use it.
What is AirPlay and how does it work?
AirPlay is a feature that allows Apple devices (commonly iPhones) to share media — like videos, images, and music — to AirPlay-enabled TVs, speakers, and other devices, 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.
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.
With AirPlay 2, Apple introduced a multi-room functionality that allows you to play audio content, such as music or podcasts, from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac on different devices at once.
That means if you have an Apple Home Pod in your living room and a Sonos Beam in the kitchen, you can send music to both of them. The best part is that the audio will sync perfectly, allowing for a seamless listening experience when moving between the rooms.
Furthermore, if you wanted to, you can also send different audio content to devices in separate rooms. For instance, if you’re enjoying music in your living room, you can also play a podcast to someone else in the bedroom.
How to use AirPlay
Using AirPlay is easy if you can find the AirPlay button. Usually, it is located in the app you’re using to view or listen to the content.
For example, in the Amazon Prime Video app on iPhone, you can find the AirPlay button – it looks like a square with a solid triangle in the bottom center – in the top right corner of the video.
If you can’t find the AirPlay button, you’ll have to use the Screen Mirroring feature, which uses AirPlay to connect, on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer.
From iPhone or iPad
1. Bring up the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. If you’re using an iPhone X or newer or an iPad running iPadOS 13 or later, swipe down from the top right corner of your screen; otherwise, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
2. Tap Screen Mirroring – the tile with two intersecting squares in it – in the Control Center.
3. Select the device you want to cast the iPhone or iPad’s screen to be mirrored.
4. Sometimes, the devices will connect automatically, but you might also need to enter the AirPlay passcode when you see the prompt on your iPhone or iPad. The code will be on the screen of the device you want to connect to.
From a Mac computer
1. To enable and use AirPlay on your Mac, start by clicking the Control Center icon – it looks like two vertical toggles – on the right side of the top menu bar.
2. Click Screen Mirroring in the Control Center.
3. Select the device you want to cast the Mac’s screen to.
4. If a passcode appears on the other device’s screen, enter it in the pop-up on your Mac.
5. AirPlay will now cast your Mac’s screen to the other device’s screen.
Advantages of AirPlay
- Makes sharing media easier: AirPlay is one of the easiest ways to share and stream media from one device to a speaker, television, or projector.
- Streams without lag: If the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ethernet connection remains strong, content can be streamed rather seamlessly and without lag. In some cases, the devices can connect wirelessly by themselves.
- Easy to set up: All new iOS devices support AirPlay, and the feature doesn’t require any setup or configuration like some other streaming outputs.
- Stream to multiple devices: AirPlay allows you to send audio content to multiple AirPlay-compatible devices at once, creating an immersive multi-room audio experience.
Disadvantages of AirPlay
- One app at a time: 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.
- Affected by Wi-Fi problems: Depending on your Wi-Fi connection, AirPlay can struggle and occasionally drop off or freeze entirely, which may require troubleshooting.
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.