Apple AirPlay 2 arrives, bringing multi-room streaming and HomePod pairing

Almost a year after being announced, AirPlay is getting an upgrade

Apple AirPlay 2 is finally here

The arrival of iOS 11.4 has brought with it the introduction of AirPlay 2, finally giving users the ability to sync multiple Apple HomePod devices and tap into multi-room audio.

Previously, if you were the owner of more than one HomePod, you weren't able to sync them up for audio listening, and the lack of multi-room audio also meant that you couldn't even shift your music from one room to the next.

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Now, AirPlay 2 will allow for songs to move between rooms or play in all rooms at the same time on any iOS device, Apple TV or HomePod - all via the magic of Siri. In order to trigger it, simply say something like, “Siri, move the music to the kitchen”, and it’ll stream to that room.

Of course, Apple's own wares won't be the only way you can take advantage of AirPlay 2, either, with a horde of third-party manufacturers also allowing you to control music through Siri. So far, we know that Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Bluesound, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marshall, Marantz, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos are all set to join the party.

However, from what we can tell, this multi-room system will still be much more favourable through HomePod, as opposed to third-party speakers. That's because, with those non-Apple AirPlay 2 speakers, your iOS device is still an integral part of the streaming process. Others services, like Spotify Connect or Google Cast, for example, treat these third-party speakers as standalone connected devices, meaning you're streaming from the internet, as opposed to just essentially sending a command through your device.

But that's not quite how AirPlay 2 works, since your iPhone essentially acts as the mid-point between your speaker and the internet. The one outlier? HomePod, which is able to connect to Apple Music and stream to other AirPlay 2 speakers independent of your phone.

And this is complicated even further by the fact that Sonos has pledged native multi-room support through AirPlay 2. However, like the standard AirPlay 2 support coming from many of its rivals, we're yet to know just when this native integration will land.

If you're not interested in dabbling outside of Apple's smart speaker fence, you can now, as we mentioned, link up two HomePods, too. For those who can afford to pick up a pair of the $349 speakers, the new software update will let you set up the speakers to split the left and right stereo channels, with the pair recognising each other during setup and giving you this option.

All in all, we know these introductions won't be the last to flesh out the AirPlay 2 experience - we're still waiting on the likes of multi-user mode, remember - but at least the ball is finally rolling.

TAGGED   apple
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