Graham Spencer On The Underused Aspects Of AirPlay

25 January 2013

MacStories:

More specifically, Dual Screen AirPlay is the ability for app developers to use a connected Apple TV as a secondary screen, displaying different content on the TV as to what is on the iOS device. In theory it’s an awesome feature that has significant potential. In reality there haven’t been many examples of its implementation, let alone many that did so in a unique and exciting way.

From a developer side, one of the biggest problems is that the method to do this isn’t really supported that well by the APIs. Audio and video are first-class citizens, but everything else is sort of a hack1 built on top of AirPlay Mirroring.

What’s the problem with Mirroring? Well, from third-party apps, there is no way to show a button to activate Mirroring. Video players can show AirPlay buttons, but general apps and games can’t.2 This means users have to independently know to enable Mirroring to use the feature …

Or more accurately, developers have to deal with mounds of support email that complain AirPlay doesn’t work.3 I mean, it’s fair enough as the process is complicated:

  1. Double-tap the Home Button.
  2. Slide to the right to activate music controls.
  3. Tap the AirPlay icon.
  4. Tap the desired Apple TV to stream to.
  5. Flick the switch labelled “Mirroring”.

Most people get stuck at step 3. The issue is a frustration for both users and developers.

Anyway, I’m digressing. The point I’ve been circling around is that Spencer thinks that the ecosystem would benefit from more developers exploiting multi-screen AirPlay. I agree, and one big stimulant for this is better OS-level support for AirPlaying content beyond video and audio.

1 “Hack” isn’t perfectly accurate — everything is using documented APIs — but it’s the best word I could think of.

2 In the inbuilt Photos app, Apple uses a private API to let itself have this functionality for slideshows.

3 I get at least one these every week; most people assume that AirPlay isn’t working if they can’t see the icon somewhere in the interface.