Apple just released new versions of iOS, HomePod and tvOS that support AirPlay 2, a huge update that lets you play music from your iPhone on multiple devices in multiple rooms. Here’s how it all works.
We tested this feature in HTG HQ and we are really impressed. We played music on HomePod and Apple TV at the same time, playing through the TV’s speakers, and everything remained in perfect sync. The music filled the room perfectly despite being played on two completely different devices at the same time.
So what exactly is AirPlay and why is version 2 better?
Built into your iPhone, iPad, or Mac is the ability to play audio (or video) from a device in your hand to another device that supports it. So if you’re watching a video on your iPhone and want to play it on your TV, you can use AirPlay to play it on the big screen, as long as you have an Apple TV connected. This also works for music playback, you can send music from your iPhone to your TV, HomePod, or AirPlay-enabled speaker.
The problem, for so long, is that you could only stream music to one device at a time, which was a huge limitation, especially since Sonos has had multi-room audio for years, and Alexa recently added it to their smart speakers. So if you want to stream music in your home from your iPhone, it was really difficult.
AirPlay 2 adds the ability to stream music from your iPhone to multiple speakers or devices in any number of rooms in your home. As long as everything is connected to the same Wi-Fi network and supports AirPlay 2, you can stream across devices. So if you have a HomePod in your kitchen and an Apple TV connected in your living room and bedroom, you can play music in all those rooms at the same time with just a tap.
What devices support AirPlay 2?
This all sounds great, but if you don’t have compatible hardware, it won’t help you much. If you want to stream to multiple devices, here are the devices that actually support AirPlay 2:
- iPhone and iPad on iOS 11.4 (here’s how to check and update it)
- iTunes on macOS or Windows
- Apple TV — works with at least tvOS version 11.4 (here’s how to check and update it)
- HomePod — Works with at least HomePod 11.4 (here’s how to check and update it)
- Any third party speaker who has listed support for it. This includes Beats, Beoplay, BeoSound, BeoVision, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Marantz, Naim, Polk and select Sonos speakers. You can check out the full list of speakers who have announced support on Apple’s website, but you’ll have to check with the manufacturer to be sure.
It’s worth noting that iPhones and iPads can be used as controllers, not as speakers. Which makes sense, of course.
How to play music on multiple compatible devices
Playing music across multiple devices, even if they are in multiple rooms, couldn’t be easier. Just open the Control Center on your iPhone and press and hold the Music button to open it.
Once you open that, click on the AirPlay icon to select the speaker output, and if all your devices are updated to the latest version, you will see circles next to the devices to choose from. You’ll notice in this screenshot that my Apple TV 2 doesn’t have a circle because I haven’t updated that device to 11.4 yet.