AirPlay and Mirroring on the Apple TV

AirPlay and Mirroring on the Apple TV

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Ryan Michael Downey

The Apple TV is a very capable set top streaming device offering a majority of the most popular Apple TV Screenstreaming apps including PBS Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus HBO-GO and Watch ESPN. But owners of compatible IOS products have access to two features that other Apple TV owners do not. Those features are AirPlay and Mirroring. The two features are very similar. In fact AirPlay and Mirroring are constantly mixed up in reviews and product descriptions. This article will hash out the differences between the two features.

What is AirPlay?
AirPlay is a proprietary video and audio protocol that allows users to send audio and video from IOS devices to their apple TV’s. This feature can also be accessed from an iTunes client installed on a windows computer. AirPlay is only compatible with certain apps, though there are many. If an app or web based video is compatible with air play a small symbol will appear on the bottom of the said video content that can be touched or in the case of using an Apple laptop, clicked. Once the AirPlay icon has been clicked or pressed the video will pop on to the TV screen provided that the Apple TV HDMI video is option is selected. AirPlay will transfer any compatible video to the Apple TV with full screen HD quality video and audio. This protocol leads the industry. We know this because as other methods for transferring video from mobile devices have arrived on the seen they are described as “Like Airplay” or Possible ‘AirPlay” killers. Have you heard anybody say that Apple TV is a more app laden and expensive version of the Google Chromecast?

AirPlay also integrates with some of the games available through the IOS mobile app store. Compatible games take advantage of the screen of a mobile device by adding fun controller functions to the screen of the device which add to the experience on the screen. For instance a compatible jet fighter game may turn an iPad into the control panel of a jet cockpit while the TV screen displays the game action itself minus the control panel. Apple is yet to fully realize the potential of this feature.

What Is Mirroring?
Screen mirroring is the full projection of a devices screen on to a TV screen using the Apple TV as a receiver. When mirroring is activated the TV essentially appears to be a monitor for the device it is mirroring but will not disable the display on the IOS device itself. Both The TV Screen and the mobile device or computer will “mirror” the other. One of the best features of mirroring is that it allows users to see full internet pages on their televisions. Unlike mobile browsers embedded in to Blu-ray players and Android based systems using mirroring and a television for browsing means that your browser is just as easy to use on a TV as it is on your device and it comes with a keyboard. This means that compatible Apple laptop users can head to Hulu.com to access the computer only version of the service and watch the latest episodes of their favorite shows without using a monthly subscription. Mirroring will allow users to view any Internet content that can be viewed on their devices on their TV screens, so this means that its capabilities are only limited by the imagination of the users. Mirroring is also helpful for apps that are not AirPlay compatible.

Use Mirroring For Presentations
The App Store is filled with many wonderful presentation software programs that when paired with an Apple TV make it perfect for meetings, teaching aids and any given project that looks better on a big screen. This gives the presenter an easy to manipulate controller for the presentation and a smooth reliable operating system to work with. Just make sure that the Apple TV is on a given network before trying to use it.

Slide Shows
Another helpful function of mirroring is that it is an easy way to display pictures from devices. While certainly not an everyday need it is a good tool to have at the right time, anniversary parties, birthdays. Holidays etc.

Where the Lines Blur
Sometimes during a visit to a website using mirroring a video will have an option to view in full screen. And when the said video selected in full screen mode is compatible with AirPlay the protocol will essentially take over. This is common when YouTube Videos are embedded on a webpage for instance.  The difference between the two experiences is  that when an app is utilizing airplay it is not necessary to keep the said app open in order to view content, while on the other hand closing the webpage or app that is being mirrored will stop the video or other content that is being viewed and display whatever is currently the device.

Either Way the Consumer Wins
The great thing about both AirPlay and Mirroring for Apple product owners is that the capabilities greatly expand the offerings available to Apple TV owners. While Apple TV has been feverishly adding apps over the past year there are many holes in its offerings.  For instance as mentioned earlier Amazon Instant Video is not included as an app on Apple TV, but the IOS app is AirPlay compatible so therefore available on Apple TV. In fact outside parties even bank on users accessing mirroring. Recent commercials for the newest sling box have been advertising “Watch with your Roku and Apple TV”. While there is a Sling box app for Roku none exists for Apple TV.  In short, any IOS mobile device owner as well as those with a shiny new mac laptop are missing out until they learn how to utilize AirPlay and Mirroring with their Apple TV. Happy Streaming!

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