AirPlay Not Ready for (Apple TV) Primetime?

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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16 thoughts on “AirPlay Not Ready for (Apple TV) Primetime?”

  1. Hulu Plus / Netflix would need to be enabled by the developers. No problems flinging Youtube and local movies I’ve loaded to my iPad.

  2. This seems like the usual approach from Apple – closed-off walled garden systems. As long as what you want to play is part of iTunes, it will all work seamlessly. Drift outside their sphere and you’re on your own. Only those who’ve already drunk the Kool Aid will be happy.

  3. This is not necessarily an Apple issue. Hulu and Netflix have separate content agreements with studios, etc. Blaming Apple makes for nice linkbait but its not a valid complaint at this point of the game.

  4. The app automatically started playing through your tv because the AirPlay toggle in the multitasking tray was turned on (probably because, as you said, it inherited it from the last app). If you double-click the home button and swipe left twice, there’s a new area for AirPlay and a volume slider. This toggle is universal and affects all apps. I think this is the only way to activate AirPlay from the Photos app, too.

  5. Big thumbs down from me.

    Its not just application video, which I had expected not to work before the apps were updated. Turns out that you can’t AirPlay video you shot on your iPhone from your camera roll, and you can’t play video formatted in HTML 5/h.264 from Safari.

    In both cases the video plays using Apple’s standard video player, and since Steve set the expections with his email that anything that played with the standard Apple player would work, this is a BIG disappointment.

    With my own videos there clearly isn’t even a rights issue. What are they worried about, Porn?

    I thought the big questions would be things like Sling Player or Hulu Plus, not my own freaking videos.

    Sad Apple, just sad.

  6. Sam, I assume you’re not a regular. As we don’t resort to linkbaiting. We call it exactly as we see it. And as you can see from my post, the info is not being presented in a dramatic fashion but is rather an even handed account of my experiences. Additionally, my commentary is partially a reaction to how Apple oversold AirPlay capabilities. And I’m obviously not the only one with issues given the number of incoming “airplay not working” Google searches. Ironically, the one thing that does fire me up lately (resulting in dramatic posts/language) is Hulu/studios anti-competitive behaviors. So, basically, you’ve got me wrong.

    Dan, Thanks for the instruction! I did swipe left looking for the toggle with the playback controls, but didn’t think to swipe left twice. Not so intuitive… but better than requiring every app developer force a volume bar on us.

    Glenn, didn’t think to try videos shot with the iPhone. That i indeed surprising and disappointing.

  7. According to Gruber, you can’t even stream video you shot yourself on your iPhone.

    It’s not licensing issues. It’s an Apple time/development problem. They weren’t ready for prime time.


    “Like any dutiful Apple fanboy, I grabbed today’s iPhone and Apple TV software updates.”

    True Apple fanboys think iOS is a bug, not a feature…

  8. Interesting how Apple TV gets a pass, profuse multiple excuses, and is “innocent until proven guilty” by post author and comments, but…

    Google TV is instantly assigned “guilty until proven innocent”, referenced with disdain, snark, general hostility by post authors and comments.

    Cult of Mac brainwashing, you has it.


  9. Todd, you misread me and the situation. Also, Apple TV is 1/3rd the price of Google TV which changes the dynamics. And for my ‘boxes of the year’ post coming next month, I am recommending neither of them at this time. I’ve offered you my Logitech Revue Google TV several times now so you can explain to us how it’s a reasonable solution… for something. Having said that, it does have several redeeming qualities. I’ve given up on a comprehensive review (although I have a partial draft) – maybe I’ll do two posts, things I appreciate and some painful elements.

  10. Man Dave, couple posts here and I’m starting to think you’re becoming a CURMUDGEON (sp) :-)

    It has been pretty clear WHAT and what NOT was going to be available to stream to the iTv. Certainly, no VNC player or content is going to work. Certainly, as Hulu is not yet on the iTv, they wouldn’t allow a BYPASS of that content to the iTv with another IoS device. That would be a tax loophole that apple just couldn’t have NOT thought about. (were it to occur, I would imagine it would be SHUT DOWN quickly)

    have you tried filmon, does that work? We KNEW pandora would work (it was described as such) and so it appears that slasher might too, but I think one is merely LUCKY in that sense.

    I think you have to get your apple expectations set more accordingly. It isn’t the case that a techie can easily circumvent the STRUCTURE that they want to keep and maintain or that there will be much more functionality than communicated.

  11. I’ve always been cranky. ;) Plus, we didn’t really know exactly what to expect, how this would be implemented, and Apple’s current marketing lingo doesn’t put the reality in context/perspective. Also, it’s not unreasonable to assume you could stream your OWN iPhone video recordings to an Apple TV… yet you can’t. (I believe FilmOn was shut down yesterday – saw a news blurb on that.) I assume AirPlay will improve over time. But it’s not quite the killer app I was hoping for.

  12. “Plus, we didn’t really know exactly what to expect, how this would be implemented”

    Folks (like me) who have been following the beta news are actually pretty surprised at just how limited today’s release is.

    “But it’s not quite the killer app I was hoping for.”

    It certainly isn’t in this incarnation. You can’t stream the videos you shot on an iOS device? WTF?

    I was pushing AirPlay as the Apple TV’s killer app back when the current version Apple TV was first released. But that was because the iOS development team has been so sharp that I couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t be able to fully roll out AirPlay by Xmas.

    The Apple TV is really not much more than an AirPlay receiver. As AirPlay goes, so goes the Apple TV.

  13. I’m curious, Dave. Did you notice that when you have airplay turned on, keyboard clicks on your phone turns off and text message sounds/ringtones play through AirPlay speakers? It’s a cute little anomaly.

  14. I don’t think Apple ever said that Airplay would work with anything other than the Video and Photos apps. It was the blogs which speculated that it would work with other apps based on beta releases of iOS4.2.

  15. Makes NO sense that video taken on your iPhone cannot play thru iTV….What the heck!!!
    Does anyone know if Apple is addressing this issue???

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