Every day, more and more people get their entertainment fix by streaming from online. Whether it is movies, TV Shows, music or anything else, streaming has become many people’s main way of accessing entertainment.
Services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant have given people an easy, quick and convenient way to watch what they want, when they want. At the same time, YouTube offers access to a near-endless supply of content – both music and visual.
AirPlay versus Airtame
All of this content means that users often want to share it with others. However, that is not always so easy. A few people can watch a movie together on a laptop, but it is not the ideal viewing scenario. Add to this the potential benefits of sharing audio or visual resources across a classroom or boardroom of laptops, then it becomes obvious why streaming has become so prevalent and why devices that can distribute or share a stream attract so much interest. AirPlay and AirTame do just this, and this article will look at the merits and pitfalls of both.
A big part of Apple’s philosophy has long been a ‘joined-up’ approach to design and thinking.
This means that every product and service they produce – whether iPhone, iTunes, iPad or AirPlay is all about how they connect and feed into each other.
A simple example is the iPod. Apple had a very clear idea of dominating the digital music market. The iPod was the first step, with iTunes the companion service that made it possible for Apple to grab such a large slice of the digital music revolution.
Today, the iPhone and iPad have well and truly pushed the iPod aside, but the example stands. AirPlay is another great example of this kind of thinking.
Apple wants users to use those iPads, Macs and MacBooks to stream content over their home network. The aim is to make Apple products an intrinsic part of how their users consume entertainments, until they cannot do without it. The AirPlay is how they want to do this.
How it Works
In order to stream content via AirPlay, any devices the user wants to use have to connect to the same local network. Airplay works over Wi-Fi, wired via Ethernet and Bluetooth connections. Whilst AirPlay handles Bluetooth connections differently, AirPlay still allows the user to manage these devices from AirPlay options.
There are two different ways to set up an AirPlay network when using a Wi-Fi network.
The first is via an Apple AirPort Express. This is a small, handy wireless router that connects all of a user’s present Apple devices. An internet connection is not essential and the AirPort Express works without one.
The second is over a wireless internet network. This is an easy option as most homes already have a router and network. All that remains is to connect each Apple device with AirPlay ability to the network.
Once on the same network, each AirPlay-enabled device acting as a source will detect devices that might act as receivers on the network. This means that the source device – say, an iPad, will see other iPads, MacBooks or Apple TVs.
After that, the user selects the devices that they want to receive the streaming content.
Pros and Cons of AirPlay
Aside from the fact that AirPlay is an official Apple product, there are a number of upsides – and some downsides- to using it.
- Even if the device a user has designated as the ‘source’ of their streaming, they can still use that device for other tasks like playing games, using Twitter and playing games. The device does not become useless once it begins streaming.
- If streaming to an Apple television, the mobile streaming device acts as a remote control. This makes it easy to change content and, in the boardroom or classroom, to change slides, graphs and other content. With each month, more and more Apps support AirPlay.
- AirPlay is easy and quick to set up.
- The quality of streaming from the device remains lossless and the same quality as the source.
- Sharing video will only work when sent to an Apple TV.
- It is not possible to split the stream and watch/listen to different content on receiving devices – whatever the host device plays is what everyone watches.
- In order for an Apple TV to stream or play copyrighted material, it has to have an internet connection.
Unlike the Apple-built AirPlay, AirTame comes from the crowd-funding market. Originally hoping to raise $160,000 for development, they soon smashed this and went on to raise over $1.6 million. This overachievement illustrates the amount of excitement many people have about AirTame.
At the base level, AirTame is a HDMI device that offers the ability to locally stream content to any HDTV or capable device, as well as other computers that install the AirTame application. In addition, AirTame, due to the extra funding they received, AirTame aims to cater to Android, Windows and iOS phones.
How it differs from AirPlay
The biggest difference from Airplay is that AirTame is that AirTame is not propriety. That is to say – the user is not bound to using it with Apple products. AirTame will work for any network or device, regardless of the manufacturer.
This gives all of those millions of users out there that do not use Apple products an alternative to Google Chromecast and other devices.
Pros and Cons of AirTame
As a device that offers wider usability than AirPlay, there are many upsides for users looking for a flexible, quality option that is not from Apple or Google.
- The ability to stream content locally from a device to a HDTV, projector or other device of any brand or OS.
- Screen mirroring capability for any number of displays and the option to wirelessly send their desktop to another screen.
- Transferring a gaming session from PC to HDTV screen is quick and simple.
- AirTame is still in much earlier stages than AirPlay or Chromecast.
- At $89, AirTame is more expensive than either of its main rivals.
- AirTame does not have the backing staff or resources of Airplay or Chromecast, which gives them the edge in terms of support and development.
Stacking them up
As it stands, AirPlay has the backing of Apple and a head start on AirTame. These two things alone are big factors. Apple will likely offer updates, refinements and support of a scale that a small company like AirTame could only ever dream of.
AirTame, however, appeals to those millions of people that do not have Apple devices. What’s more, it is free to develop however it wants and perhaps go open-source. This means all kinds of creative, wonderful possibilities for the future.
AirPlay offers the sleek package of Apple, joining all of their devices together. AirTame has lots of growth potential and provides a great way to stream content however the user wants – no matter the OS or device.