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AirPlay 2: when Apple is finally interested in “multi-room” without latency

The update of the wireless protocol Apple will fill many gaps: control the playback and volume of music from one room to another, in “multi-room”, like the Sonos system , remove latency, and improve responsiveness and interactions with compatible devices.

If there is one point on which Apple is lagging behind, it is the ability to communicate with multiple compatible devices to broadcast audio. Never mind, the California firm is well aware and has already taken the lead: Not only it announced during the keynote of the Worldwide Conference Developper (WWDC) last June the arrival of AirPlay 2, and this is not everything since it has just launched in some countries the marketing of its first wireless speaker, the HomePod, which is of course compatible … AirPlay 2.

As a reminder, AirPlay is a technology that was launched by Apple in 2010 and has not changed so far. AirPlay 2 promises “faster than real-time” streaming to reduce latency and improve control responsiveness. While the first version of the name is content with a few seconds audio cache, the buffering of the second generation of AirPlay is counted in minutes. Suddenly, AirPlay 2 becomes a serious competitor to other technologies proposed by the competition, we think immediately Sonos with its very efficient multi-room system. Especially since Apple’s cache system supports audio formats supported by iOS 11, tvOS 10 and macOS High Sierra (MP3, AAC, ALAC, LPCM, and FLAC) in different samplings (44.1 kHz and 48 kHZ maximum in bits) and can communicate with compatible products: Apple TV 4 and 4K, HomePod, and other third-party devices. Many audio manufacturers have announced plans to launch AirPlay 2 compatible devices. Note that less powerful devices that support AirPlay are not eligible.

Another interesting feature brought by AirPlay 2, the ability to receive calls and notifications without the audio listening is interrupted, like what offers Sonos.

In all cases, AirPlay 2 is a new boon for developers since they can make their application compatible, through an API, to stream music, an audio book or a podcast.

In practice, developers can already test AirPlay 2 with Apple TV 4 or 4K under iOS 11.3. If you have more than one Apple TV, it is possible to see all the boxes appear in the Music selector of the control center. It is possible to control the playback of a song on all devices, and also to transfer the song being played on the iPhone on an Apple TV or another.

What is still missing today is the ability to integrate this protocol into an automation or a scene, through the application House for example. Let’s bet that Apple is working on it and will make this feature possible later …