AirPlay: One of the coolest things Apple has ever come up with that nobody uses

“While screen mirroring solutions — like Apple’s AirPlay — have reached a relatively high level of awareness, not a lot of people are actually using it, according to a new study by the NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence team,” Chris Maxcer reports for MacNewsWorld. “What is screen mirroring? It’s when you wirelessly project what you see on your smartphone or tablet and show it on an HDTV screen. As it turns out, only 7 percent of U.S. smartphone and tablet owners are using screen mirroring.”

“Apple’s Steve Jobs introduced AirPlay in the fall of 2010. So what gives? Is AirPlay a cool technology that’s underappreciated or is it too much of a pain to be useful?” Maxcer writes. “In my experience, it’s both — wicked cool and a royal pain — but lately the pain has been overshadowing the shine. I thought I was alone in this, but the disparity between knowledge and use of the feature makes me wonder.”

Maxcer reports, “It’s quite possible that a high percentage of Apple TV customers use AirPlay. That leads to insight very different than what The NPD Group reports: You could have high awareness with low use over a large population of smart device owners, and still have a very active Apple TV install base using AirPlay. With a different set of questions, you could determine that AirPlay is wildly successful among Apple TV owners. However, I’m not so sure that it is. In my experience, it’s either handy and awesome — or buggy and slow.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s the thing: We were watching some YouTube videos the other day. We started on our iPad and AirPlayed them to our big screen HDTV. The video played, but started pausing every 3-10 seconds. Very irritating. So much so, in fact, that we eventually switched to YouTube directly on the Apple TV, searched for the videos we were watching, and watched them play flawlessly (so it obviously wasn’t our Internet connection that was causing the problem).

This doesn’t just happen with YouTube,, either. Video content that doesn’t stutter when played on the iPad, pauses every so often on the TV via Apple TV. We are, naturally, using all current model Apple products, from the iPad to the Airport Extreme to the Apple TV. Yet, no go – not smoothly, at least. Mirroring video/audio from iPad or iPhone to Apple TV is generally an irritating, staccato experience. Why doesn’t it “just work,” Apple?

Here’s a thought: Maybe if it actually did “just work,” more people would use it.

85 Comments

      1. Double hint: ISPs are shafting us.

        Their speed testing instruments (ie: SpeedTest, OOlkla, etc…) are misrepresenting performance by measuring speeds based on peak throughput rather than continuous throughput performance.

        1. So don’t use their speed tests. I have Comcast, and have only used their speedtest to see how accurate it is. Ironically, it’s under-reporting. I’m getting an average sustained 116mbps download pretty consistently using other tools, while the Comcast speedtest shows me just a bit lower at about 112mbps.

          For me, it’s all about routing anyway, so I’m using tools like MTR and Network Logger testing my own servers around the world and look at real-world performance to other servers.

          BUT that’s another issue…

          AirPlay performance is dependent on your *LAN*. So test that instead. The only time you need to test your ISP speed as an issue is if you’re trying to AirPlay something you’re streaming online, in which case the problem could still be your LAN, your ISP, the routing to your content provider, or the content provider itself (I’m looking at you Netflix).

          1. Noted, however the two I use: testmy. Net and SpeeofMe.Com (the best independent, Java and Flash free instruments.) show FIOS speeds to be overly hyped, promoted and falsely misrepresented to be stable countinuous and steady…the burst performance is the culprit caisiing the pause…

            1. What’s funny is that as I mentioned before, I’m getting real world results (actually downloading large files from my servers) of 116mbps, but with 3 tests of testmy.net I got 54.9mbps, 86.4mbps, 74.8mbps. With SpeedofMe.com, I got 120mbps, 122.59mbps, 124.26mbps.

              So the two tests you recommended, I got between 54.9mbps and 124.26mbps. This is with the entire network disconnected (no other devices) and no apps or other browser windows open. Also, I set the location of testmy.net to a near city (and tried others to verify).

              TL;DR: at least one of them is very wrong.

            2. Happens sometimes…might have to do with server routing but continue and you’ll find that at times they both confirm each other.

              What other independent tests are you using?

              Look under the testmy.net miscellaneous tab for good explanations and validations of it’s approach and why ISPs should not be involved in speed tests… ISPs have bought an interest in most speed tests out there which, in some cases hosted on their servers and falsely read shortest path performance.

              Verizon is the biggest customer abuser.

            3. Ya, I would never use an ISP’s speedtest as a reliable method. It’s not so much that they’re intentionally being deceptive as it is that you’re only testing your connection to your ISP. The routing from your ISP can kill your speeds.

              And to some degree that’s the problem with all of the speed tests. If I’m going 3rd party to a server that’s local and has a solid connection to Comcast, I’ll get higher results.

              That’s why I use other tools like MTR and Network Logger to test my speeds and routing to specific servers and areas.

              For example… using MTR, I can explain the discrepancy between testmy.net and SpeedOfMe.com and why SpeedOfMe.com got results higher than Comcast’s speed tool.

              TestMy.net is going through far more hops to get to. On two of the hops I’m getting significant packet loss. If fact, on ae19.bbr01.eq01.dal03.networklayer.com, I’m getting 80% packet loss. That’s where the problem is, not Comcast. On the other hand, SpeedOfMe.com has routing with far fewer hops and no problems along the way… 0% packet loss and fast pings. Since SpeedOfMe.com is local and on the same backbone, there’s no real difference in connecting to it, as compared to Comcast. However, SpeedOfMe.com is better suited for speed tests and things like not using Flash is allowing it to score higher than Comcast.

              IOW: There really is no *one* accurate bandwidth score other than what your ISP is actually giving you and perhaps throttling you at, but you have to take that score as a theoretical maximum and know that realistically, wherever you connect in the world (not necessarily geographically) you’ll likely get lower results (caveat of higher results as per my example).

      2. There is electrical noise around the home that gets in the way of Airplay over WiFi and there is nothing you can do about it except increase the buffer size which increases the starting delay. Streaming from one device to AppleTV is inherently going to be choppy for many people unless WiFi moves over to other frequencies.

        1. Ya, that’s why I pretty much go with the rule in our house…

          Q: Does it move?
          A: WiFi.

          Q: Does it not move?
          A: Cat 6 Ethernet.

          I know that’s not an option for most people, but AirPlay, TiVo streaming, Sonos, wireless phones all over the house, 3 Microcells webcams etc… it all works great in my house despite the complexity… 6 WiFi routers, 7 switches and between 100-150 devices connected.

      3. I totally agree. Your network has to be a high performance one. I have a Netgear N 900 dual band gigabit router. At the time I got it, it cost $199. Now it is $149 with the new ac one at the top for $199. I have no problems with AirPlay or any thing else that is on my network wired or wireless. I have a friend that has the latest Apple dual band wireless and it is marginal at best. Video pulls a lot of bandwidth and for that you need a wireless router that can handle it.

  1. @MDN

    Do you have the Apple TV connected to your network via ethernet or WIFI?
    Ethernet connection to Apple TV resolves stuttering for us.

    We use airplay for video daily on on nearly 20 Apple TV’s in our org. It does work.

    I mean think about it. You are streaming video from youtube across the internet, through your router, to your wireless device. You then expect that wireless device to simultaneously re-stream that feed in real time back out over the wireless to another wirelessly connected device and are then surprised when you have stuttering, buffering, issues? The problem isn’t Airplay it is your unrealistic expectations..

    Welcome to WIFI latency. Wifi interference plays a role. Airplay is great tech, it is the inherent flaws in WIFI that contribute to the bad experience. Apple isn’t likely to fix that ever..

    1. We have Apple TV connected via Ethernet to AirPort Extreme. No streaming problems at all.

      I did see that some Apple TVs are being replaced for having WiFi issues:

      “Apple has informed its official retail stores, AppleCare employees, and authorized resellers that a small number of third-generation Apple TV units have WiFi issues. These issues surround not being able to locate a WiFi network, unable to join a network, and dropped or intermittent connections”

      http://9to5mac.com/2013/04/15/apple-says-small-number-of-apple-tvs-have-wifi-issues-opens-replacement-program/

    2. Also MDN, are they using the 5 GHz network with wide bands or the 2.4 or mixed? I’ve set up a dedicated 5 and seldom have these problems (with wired Apple TV as Truth says).

      And have you checked for interfering networks and adjusted your channels (the higher, the better)?

      I know these are basic, but I have seen so many issues resolved by adjusting these settings.

      1. And while I am thinking about it, wireless repeaters, Extreme, Express or others, severely slow down throughput, even if the speed looks good.

        Best bet is to wire from router to extender which will keep your throughput at same rate as router’s, or to wire FROM the extender to the recipient (client).

        In other words, one wireless hop is all an extender can handle without affecting your network, whether it is receiving or transmitting.

    3. Our household has a 27″ iMac, Macbook Air, iPhone 4S and 5, iPad 2nd generation, iPod touch, and Apple TV 2nd and 3rd generations. And we’ve got a 60″ LED TV that begs for movies to watch. The 5GHz Wifi signal is strong though out the house.

      But I could not get either Apple TV to stream movies consistently without stuttering or failing outright. Airplay from the iMac didn’t work much better, hit or miss. Streaming seems to work well enough in the mornings but in the afternoon or evenings, forget it. But I did find a solution. Airplay steamed great from my iPhone 5. So I loaded up all my rental movies onto my iPhone and used Airplay to stream it to the TV. No stuttering. It worked great… Until the last Apple TV OS update. Now it stutters or doesn’t do anything at all. I’m back to watching movies on my 27″ iMac.

      I don’t know whether it’s my cable company, RF interference from the neighbors or, Apple simply not getting it right. Very frustrating but I’m glad to see that it’s not just me having problems.

  2. In my home setup (3 Apple TV’s and 1 airplay sound dock) I have very good experiences with audio and it impresses everyone who we entertain. It’s very rare for it to cut out or not be responsive.

    With video, it just depends. At one time before you had access to all of your purchased movies via iCloud I used to stream iTunes-bought movies from the iPad to Apple TV and it worked really well.

    But I have never had good luck with streaming home movies shot on our iPhones or iPad. It takes so long to buffer. In each case I’d be trying to show some friends something and it would take so long it was completely embarrassing both to myself and Apple.

    This really makes no sense because we’re talking about a compressed file over a modern local network. MDN’s take is pretty spot on.

  3. I use Airplay with both an apple TV and a denon stereo receiver, nearly all day long every day. I send music from spotify on my laptop, videos and music from my iPad and iPhone. I’ve never had and issues other than interference from a microwave oven. Hardly a disappointment. The most disappointing thing is all the blabbering about how it doesn’t work. One of the best features of any apple device.

  4. Use it all the time, every day, love it. When something works so well that it’s invisible, you don’t have to think about it, and thus you forget how awesome it is. I have 3 TVs, house sound system, 3 Macs, 23 iPads, 2 iPhones, 2 Touches, in my 4 member household. Everyone can instantly play anything from their device on any TV at any time. Sad thing is, my kids think that’s just how everything in the world is supposed to work, and are confused when we are anywhere else and wonder what’s wrong with the world.

    1. 23 iPads for a 4 member household? WTF?? I’d like to have your problems. Who the hell needs 23 iPads? How about you donate a few to a school or make actual use of them you greedy hoarder?

  5. Have you got a lot of devices on the network MDN?. It might be a network or internet bandwidth issue If I am streaming stuff from my iPhone to my Apple TV, I rarely if ever get stuttering/buffering issues unless I am also downloading movies to iTunes on my Mac at the same time.

  6. We are starting to use airplay here with our recruiters. They will have an iPad, AppleTV and Apple Airport Express. Doing presentations and video they have been flawless. The hardest part is getting the presentation onto the iPads. Be nice to simply plug the iPad into USB and drag them over, but thats too easy! Tested Dropbox. But no problems here with Airplay, my only disappointment is Jobs said it would be open source and if it was we would probably see more of it.

  7. Once I got true high speed internet (instead the faux high-speed DSL), my AirPlay has been very usable. I cut the cable bill and watch most everything from the internet over AirPlay. Between Comcast internet and NetFlix, I can watch just about 90% of what I want to see–all over AirPlay.

    1. And if I have to run an ethernet cable to the AppleTV (as many are suggesting here) doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?

      The WHOLE reason I bought an AppleTV was to not have to worry about stinkin’ CABLES.

      1. You don’t “have-to”, but you may want to. If you use a mac or iOS device to Airplay video to the Apple TV, you will find that performance is better if the Apple TV is connected via ethernet.

        Why would you want to Airplay something like Netflix that is already integrated with the Apple TV anyway? Why tie up the computer streaming something you can use natively on the device?

        It is a very simple concept, Each wireless hop adds latency to the connection. Building construction, radio transmission, people, other wireless devices ALL can contribute ‘noise’ or interference that reduces connection strength, stability and throughput.

        The unfortunate side effect of the mass adoption of WIFI is that people expect it to always work and expect it to be as good as wired services, neither of which are true.

        From my living room in my condo, I can see over 20 other wireless networks. As a result wireless performance is less than ideal and requires a level of tuning, most average users do not know anything about.

      2. My recommendation is to put everything that doesn’t move on Ethernet, unless it’s impractical to do so (like there are no ports or ability to run cable to the location).

  8. I’ve been using AirPlay on my hacked Apple TV G1 with great success! So, huh?

    I do have great Internet bandwidth and have optimized which WiFi band I’m using in order to avoid interference. As ever, it’s useful to know what’s the bottleneck. I’m not sure it’s AirPlay that’s the problem.

    1. It’s the ISP.

      Ive been extensively testing for 5 months now, the FIOS product which is failing miserably to provide steady reliable continous stable performance as promised. FIOS is not what it promises at least here in all locations and despite high peak bursting, which may be the problem impacting AirPlay…

      Two independent speed testing instruments worth using are :
      testmy.net and SpeedOfMe.com ( they are java and flash free tetsing instruments that show continuous as opposed to burst performance results)

      1. Locally I can choose between two companies that suck bad: Verizon or Time Warner. I hate them both. So much for competition.

        My dear old mom chose to get DSL service from her phone company. Surprise: They treat her like royalty and she has steady, decent bandwidth. Go figure.

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