Like any dutiful Apple fanboy, I grabbed today’s iPhone and Apple TV software updates. One of the top selling points is AirPlay — new functionality designed to facilitate shipping a variety of multimedia around the home. And my initial reaction isn’t entirely positive. The concept is awesome, and something we’ve discussed here at length since first announced. But the current execution, at least in relation to Apple TV ($99), leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s how Apple describes AirPlay on the ATV:
With AirPlay, you can stream it all from your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, too. So if you feel like watching a movie you have on one of your devices, you don’t need to rent or buy it again. Just tap to start playing content on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, then tap again to instantly stream whatever you’re watching — or listening to — directly to Apple TV.
After a short amount of time attempting to beam content from iPhone to HDTV via AppleTV, I can tell you the “whatever” is a gross exaggeration. I’ve yet to successfully relay video from any third party apps (like Hulu), although the occasional app can pass along the audio half of the feed – which is of pretty limited value. It’s unclear if I have all the wrong apps or if this functionality needs to be enabled by developers. Perhaps it’s just not ready for primetime. Regardless, the simplest and most effective solution is for Apple to launch a full-on Apple TV app store.
On the audio front, I had good luck with AirPlay piping third party app content (like Slacker) to Apple TV. Although, the music just starts playing — there’s no real Apple TV visual cues as to what’s going on. Related, not all audio apps will display the uninspired AirPlay icon to initiate (or stop) playback. For example, when I launched the XM app, audio began playing through Apple TV. I’m not entirely certain why, perhaps it inherited the previous app’s AirPlay setting. And it wasn’t immediately clear where/how to stop it. As it turns out, I had the volume bar (that houses the AirPlay toggle) hidden which I dug up in the settings. Of course, at the end of the day, I have little interest in streaming music through my video-centric gear. Which is why I’m hopeful we’ll see some interesting networked AirPlay-capable speaker systems in the near future.
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