Why is Airplay still so awful?

Mad Mac Maniac

macrumors 601
Original poster
Airplay has been a feature on the Apple TV for about 4 years now, and it has seemed to improve very little, if at all.

Now some of it is developer fault, sure. But i would still put much of the blame on apple.

Many video apps simply do not support airplay, Many video apps require you to stay in the app with the screen on. All apps (except youtube) will not let you continue to browse the app and you will be stuck in that one play mode. also I often run into a crappy experience where the app supports airplay but it simply won't work or it takes 10 seconds to load.
 

Uofmtiger

macrumors 68020
Dec 11, 2010
2,041
741
Memphis
I would say it is all the developers fault. The reason I say that is that many do work properly, which means the Appletv works properly.
 

s15119

macrumors 68000
Nov 20, 2010
1,847
1,622
Everything you describe are choices that the developer made. Many programs work great with airplay. For instance I use Air Video on a regular basis, it lets me send any video on my computers to my Apple TV and I can let go on and play games or do whatever with the device while it continues to stream. With the right apps, airplay is awesome.
 

waw74

macrumors 68040
May 27, 2008
3,157
189
and it the case where it doesn't work, or won't load, it's probably a network issue, video takes a lot of bandwidth and there's a good chance the stream is on your network 3 times.

1- router to phone
2- phone to router
3- router to aTV


if you can hardwire your aTV it might help.
 

twintin

macrumors 6502
Aug 10, 2012
478
40
Sweden
Also, only natively supported video formats (h.264 and MPEG4) can be played in the background with the display turned off, because those are the only one that can be hardware decoded. All other formats must be software decoded and hence must be played in the forground with the display on.
 

Uofmtiger

macrumors 68020
Dec 11, 2010
2,041
741
Memphis
Also, only natively supported video formats (h.264 and MPEG4) can be played in the background with the display turned off, because those are the only one that can be hardware decoded. All other formats must be software decoded and hence must be played in the forground with the display on.
Thanks for that info. I wondered why some of the apps that could not play in the background a couple months ago will now play in the background.
 
  • Like
Reactions: imaccooper

priitv8

macrumors 68040
Jan 13, 2011
3,519
438
Estonia
Also, only natively supported video formats (h.264 and MPEG4) can be played in the background with the display turned off, because those are the only one that can be hardware decoded. All other formats must be software decoded and hence must be played in the forground with the display on.
How is this relevant? The sending device needs to decode nothing (assuming H.264 video stream). It is a simple "file copy" activity.
The decoding happens in the rendering device, in this case appleTV.
The story becomes different when streams need to be transcoded, but still I don't see why would one need screen to do this?
Also, devices that are AirPlay Mirroring capable, have all built-in hardware H.264 encoder on-board.

From what I understand, OP talks about iOS devices in the first place.
 

Uofmtiger

macrumors 68020
Dec 11, 2010
2,041
741
Memphis
How is this relevant? The sending device needs to decode nothing (assuming H.264 video stream). It is a simple "file copy" activity.
The decoding happens in the rendering device, in this case appleTV.
The story becomes different when streams need to be transcoded, but still I don't see why would one need screen to do this?
Also, devices that are AirPlay Mirroring capable, have all built-in hardware H.264 encoder on-board.

From what I understand, OP talks about iOS devices in the first place.
Just my guess, but transcoding takes more processing power, so maybe it can't be run in the background on iOS?
 

twintin

macrumors 6502
Aug 10, 2012
478
40
Sweden
How is this relevant? The sending device needs to decode nothing (assuming H.264 video stream). It is a simple "file copy" activity.
The decoding happens in the rendering device, in this case appleTV.
The story becomes different when streams need to be transcoded, but still I don't see why would one need screen to do this?
Also, devices that are AirPlay Mirroring capable, have all built-in hardware H.264 encoder on-board.

From what I understand, OP talks about iOS devices in the first place.
There are three alternatives to AirPlay videos from an iDevice an ATV:

1. If the video is already in h.264 format, transmit it as is in the background.

2. If the video is not in h.264 format, transcode it into h.264 before transmitting it. Since apps are not allowed to execute in the background (except in few exceptions) the app must run in the foreground with displsy turned on (turning the display off, will put the lock screen in the foreground).

3. If the player app does not support transcoding, then the whole display must be mirrored, which requires that the content of the whole display is first encoded into h.264 before transmitting it (which of course also requires the display to be on). This can be a bit choppy.
 
Last edited:

AxoNeuron

macrumors 65816
Apr 22, 2012
1,241
844
The Left Coast
Airplay has been a feature on the Apple TV for about 4 years now, and it has seemed to improve very little, if at all.

Now some of it is developer fault, sure. But i would still put much of the blame on apple.

Many video apps simply do not support airplay, Many video apps require you to stay in the app with the screen on. All apps (except youtube) will not let you continue to browse the app and you will be stuck in that one play mode. also I often run into a crappy experience where the app supports airplay but it simply won't work or it takes 10 seconds to load.
Uh, no.

First of all, it's NOT the developers faults. In most cases, it is some empty-headed vapid corporate suit sitting in a boardroom who is terrified that AirPlay will create DRM concerns.

Second of all, I have never experienced airplay taking more than 3 seconds to load, and it's usually almost instantaneous. Keep in mind I've done it with a lot of different devices on 10 or more networks each with its own wireless router and multiple Apple TV's. This suggests to me that it's likely an issue with your device, or if it's happening on multiple devices, probably your network.

----------

I would say it is all the developers fault. The reason I say that is that many do work properly, which means the Appletv works properly.
Um...no. Read above.
 

AxoNeuron

macrumors 65816
Apr 22, 2012
1,241
844
The Left Coast
How is this relevant? The sending device needs to decode nothing (assuming H.264 video stream). It is a simple "file copy" activity.
The decoding happens in the rendering device, in this case appleTV.
The story becomes different when streams need to be transcoded, but still I don't see why would one need screen to do this?
Also, devices that are AirPlay Mirroring capable, have all built-in hardware H.264 encoder on-board.

From what I understand, OP talks about iOS devices in the first place.
The device has to encode the current display and compress it to H.264 format and send it wirelessly to Apple TV which decodes the H.264 via a hardware decoder. This encoding and compression takes place on hardware. With other formats it takes place in CPU thus it requires extra energy so it isn't done in sleep mode due to global restrictions on background CPU usage.
 

priitv8

macrumors 68040
Jan 13, 2011
3,519
438
Estonia
This encoding and compression takes place on hardware. With other formats it takes place in CPU thus it requires extra energy so it isn't done in sleep mode due to global restrictions on background CPU usage.
This makes sense. Saying that the restriction is more "political" than "technological".
But why can't the hardware H.264 encoder be used for encoding arbitrary memory buffer, not just framebuffer?
By design?
In my understanding, encoding is the more computationally taxing part.
 

scottw324

macrumors 6502
Mar 5, 2012
452
1
I use AirVideo all the time to stream content from my Mac Mini, through my iP5, to my ATV. These are movies that I have dowloaded but not imported into iTunes yet for easy playback through the native ATV3 interface.

Works just fine for me and I can still use the phones other apps while airplay streams the video to the ATV3 in the background. Occationally I do get a hiccup where the stream will cutoff or the app will crash, but we are talking the rare occation. 90 soemthing percent of the time time, it works flawlessly. We just watched video of my kids soccer game over airplay on my TV Saturday night without any problems and flicked through the still images I took as well.

As others have said, if you are having issues, it is probably a network issue. Your router cannot handle the load, there is something else taking up a lot of bandwidth at the same time as you trying to stream, etc...

We have three ATV3s in our house, 3 iPads, and 2 iP5s. I am typically able to stream a 1080p movie on the ATV3, 1080p movie on my rMini and whatever my wife is watching on her iPad 3 all at the same time without any issues.

I am using a previous gen Apple Airport Extreme router and a curret version Apple Airport Express for wireless connectivity in my house. My Mac Mini runs off of a Powerline Adapter connected to my router since the Mac is upstairs and the router is downstairs in the center of the house.
 

JaySoul

macrumors 68030
Jan 30, 2008
2,589
2,685
Don't really have any problems with AirPlay.

Only occasionally a video I'm Home Streaming from the MBP will hang, otherwise fine.
 

Big Stevie

macrumors 6502a
Jun 20, 2012
970
285
UK
Im experiencing a few issues with Airplay.

Ive recently bought a Bose SoundTouch20 speaker and when I want to send spotify music from my macbook to the Bose I often can't get it to connect, despite my iPhone & iPad connecting without issue.

When holding down the 'alt' key and clicking on the speaker symbol, I can't always select my Bose speaker....

 

tdale

macrumors 65816
Aug 11, 2013
1,293
76
Christchurch, N.Z.
Airplay has been a feature on the Apple TV for about 4 years now, and it has seemed to improve very little, if at all.

Now some of it is developer fault, sure. But i would still put much of the blame on apple.

Many video apps simply do not support airplay, Many video apps require you to stay in the app with the screen on. Dev issue. My new, local streaming site run by my Telco upgraded the app to do this, its not Apple All apps (except youtube) will not let you continue to browse the app and you will be stuck in that one play mode. also I often run into a crappy experience where the app supports airplay but it simply won't work or it takes 10 seconds to load.
Airplay is wifi. Wifi is terrible. So you ensure your wifi is well within spec. That is you keep it as close as you can, don't expect miracles through thick walls or distance, or congestion. Cable what you can,cable your ATV to your router, use AC, etc. Optimise wifi, live within its capability, and Airplay will be fine as your wifi is fine
 

Mike MA

macrumors 68020
Sep 21, 2012
2,028
1,633
Airplay has been a feature on the Apple TV for about 4 years now, and it has seemed to improve very little, if at all.

Now some of it is developer fault, sure. But i would still put much of the blame on apple.

Many video apps simply do not support airplay, Many video apps require you to stay in the app with the screen on. All apps (except youtube) will not let you continue to browse the app and you will be stuck in that one play mode. also I often run into a crappy experience where the app supports airplay but it simply won't work or it takes 10 seconds to load.
Apple's own integration pretty much works well for me - since I used an Apple router.
 

DarwinOSX

macrumors 68000
Nov 3, 2009
1,511
67
Uh, no.

First of all, it's NOT the developers faults. In most cases, it is some empty-headed vapid corporate suit sitting in a boardroom who is terrified that AirPlay will create DRM concerns.

Second of all, I have never experienced airplay taking more than 3 seconds to load, and it's usually almost instantaneous. Keep in mind I've done it with a lot of different devices on 10 or more networks each with its own wireless router and multiple Apple TV's. This suggests to me that it's likely an issue with your device, or if it's happening on multiple devices, probably your network.

----------


Um...no. Read above.
You seriously cannot say that in some cases it is the developer. Are all of these apps owned or directed by "corporate suits"? No.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Uofmtiger

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,313
1,696
I find AirPlay a little finicky at times even with Apples own software. With 3rd party apps it can be really finicky.

As far as DRM goes, well soon it will be illegal if remember a movie or song too well. Just using iTunes means you'll be subject to yearly lobotomies.
 

johannnn

macrumors 65816
Nov 20, 2009
1,406
776
Sweden
100mbit internet with newest Airport Express, yet music lags when other people on the same network do anything network intensive (starting youtube, downloading something etc). That's my main gripe.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ixxx69

zhenya

macrumors 603
Jan 6, 2005
6,364
2,834
Airplay has always sucked. I have drop issues and connection problems every time I try to use it.
Under what circumstances? I use Airplay heavily for video and music nearly every day, and the vast majority of the time it performs flawlessly. However I've invested in a robust network and am fortunate to have minimal interference. Airplay as a protocol works perfectly fine. Your network has issues.
 

CEmajr

macrumors 601
Dec 18, 2012
4,373
1,132
Charlotte, NC
It seems to lose the video connection after about 30 seconds of trying to mirror a music video in Apple Music from my iPhone.