Apple has announced Airplay 2, which includes new features such as multiroom, HomeKit compatibility, and Apple TV4 integration. The new HomePod speaker will be one of the first speakers with Airplay 2 but the company also announced a handful of partners, including Bang & Olufsen and Bose.
Airplay 2 in HomeKit
At WWDC Apple unveiled Airplay 2, which is a long-awaited update to the original Airplay protocol. With Airplay 2, the company is adding new features but the protocol was first and foremost positioned as an extension of the HomeKit system.
This means that Airplay 2 will play a role in the “intelligent home”, allowing you to use speakers in “scenes” and letting speakers interact with other connected devices in your home. Besides music and TV sound, you will also be able to use the speakers for other tasks.
Airplay 2 is in other words an underlying protocol for wireless sound beyond music, and an extension of Apple HomeKit.
Multiroom, Apple TV4 & HomePod
One of the most important new features in Airplay 2 is multiroom support. While Airplay 2 may sound like a direct alternative to Sonos, it can do a lot more because it is integrated on a system-level in iOS. Apple will also provide developers with an API.
Multiroom support will let you beam music to multiple speakers in the home via an iPhone or iPad. The system will make sure that music playback is perfectly synchronized in all rooms. Apple also highlighted a new “Shared Up Next” feature that lets family members add tracks to a shared playlist.
- ”AirPlay 2 may require a software update to existing speakers or new hardware depending on speaker manufacturer,” Apple notes.
To take advantage of the new features in Airplay 2 you may be required to buy new speakers. While some speakers can be updated, others may not be compatible. The company highlighted a range of launch partners, including Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Denon, Marantz, B&W, and Beats.
Apple TV4 is one of the devices that can be updated to Airplay 2. It can act as a speaker in a multiroom setup but also as a type of hub that lets you control music playback throughout your house from the largest screen in the house via the remote or Siri voice control.
The company added that music can be beamed to Apple TV but as you may know Apple TV can also beam TV sound to wireless speakers via Airplay. We have for example used Airplay to wirelessly beam TV sound from Apple TV to Bang & Olufsen BeoLab speakers. Today, the Airplay protocol supports stereo but Airplay 2 could be the foundation for wireless surround sound on Apple TV – perhaps with the next tvOS release?
At WWDC, Apple also unveiled HomePod, which is a connected speaker for the home and one of the first to be compatible with Airplay 2. It is not clear how tight integration between HomePod and Apple TV will be but HomePod will not launch until December and the company said that it has a lot more to say on the subject later this year – presumably at the fall event.
At WWDC, Tim Cook also said that we will hear "a lot more about tvOS later this year".