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What's AirPlay? [iOS A-Z]

AirPlay lets you share everything from your music and movies to apps and games from your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad to your Apple TV

If you're new to iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad and are wondering just what exactly AirPlay is and what it means to you, worry not -- iMore has you covered. AirPlay is Apple's term for their audio and video streaming technology. It's what lets your iOS 5 device, or iTunes on Mac or Windows, beam videos over Wi-Fi to your Apple TV so you can watch movies and play games on your big screen TV, or music to your AirPort Express router, so you can listen on your higher quality speakers.

AirPlay Mirroring is a more recent addition to iOS that works with iPad 2 or iPhone 4S and lets you not only beam music or video, but entire iPhone or iPad apps. Anything from Facebook to your favorite crosswords, racing, or fighting game can be sent via Apple TV to your HDTV, with your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad remaining active as the controller. Some games, like [Real Racing 2](/tag/real-racing 2) even let you participate in multiplayer games using AirPlay, with each person using their own device to control their own car, all displayed together on the big screen TV.

AirPlay is proprietary and not an open standard, which means Apple gets to control who uses it. Several other companies have licensed AirPlay, however, and you can find a growing range of AirPlay-compatible audio equipment. There's also some software out there that can run on your computer and tie into AirPlay, like BananaTV that lets you beam to your Mac instead of a TV.

Your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or computer running iTunes needs to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV, Airport Express, or other hardware for AirPlay to work, but because Wi-Fi has high bandwidth it usually makes for a solid, stable connection. It's real time. It's encrypted. And most of the time, it "just works"

Want to know more? Check out more of our iOS A-Z words-of-the-day, or jump ahead to our complete iPhone and iPad glossary for the full on dictionary list!

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

12 Comments
  • I have an iphone want to use is 4 via airplay has the apple tv?
  • what?
  • What?
  • Lol I haz spelling problem?
  • sagt:Ich wtlole es auch in weiY. Aber einfach deshalb, dass man zuhause die Handys besser differenzieren kann zwischen meiner Frau ihrem und meinem. Jetzt sind beide schwarz, aber haben eine andere Hulle drum-rum und gut ist!
  • Engrish funny.
  • The iPod gets no mirroring T_T
  • I really wish they made this tech without the need of a router/WiFi. It could be something similar to Bluetooth, but much more innovative...
    But as I stated; it´s just wishful thinking!
  • has henpepad to me twice before, if you keep locking it and unlocking it on the itunes logo it should glitch up and say slide to unlock and then it should go back on?
  • XBMC has AirPlay support for those of you with HTPCs.
  • God fucikng damnit, I bought my 3G half a year ago. If I had just waited those few moinths I could've had a fucikng 3GS instead >:C
  • I have antoher video for how to use greenpois0njust go watch that one and if you still have a problem then tell me again