How Apple TV AirPlay Works

How to use AirPlay to watch and listen to content through your Apple TV

Apple TV the Celestial Jukebox
A couple dancing by a jukebox-cum-television in a coffee bar. Groovy!. Express/Getty Images

AirPlay is an Apple solution that lets you wirelessly stream videos, music, and photos from your iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) to AirPlay-enabled speakers and other devices, including Apple TV.

What this means

What this means is that you can easily beam content from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or even Mac to your television screen with a little help from AirPlay. What makes this even more useful is that people visiting your premises can also beam their content to your big screen.

That’s great for movie nights, music sharing, study, movie projects, presentations and more. Here’s how to make this work with an Apple TV.


The most important requirement is that your Apple TV and the device(s) you hope to use AirPlay to send content to it are all on the same Wi-Fi network. This is because AirPlay demands that you share your content via Wi-Fi, rather than alternative networks such as Bluetooth or 4G. Some more recent devices can use peer-to-peer AirPlay sharing (see below).

Assuming you know which Wi-Fi network your Apple TV is on, getting iPhones, iPads, iPod touch or Macs onto the same network is as simple as choosing the network and entering the password. So now you have your devices on the same network as your Apple TV what do you do next?

Using iPhone, iPad, iPod touch

It is very simple to share your content using Apple TV and an iOS device, though first, you should make sure all the devices you hope to use are running the latest version of the iOS and all are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

  • Swipe up from the bottom of your iOS device screen to open Control Center.
  • Look for the AirPlay button at the lower middle right of Control Center, just under the Play, forward and back buttons and just above the Camera icon. Tap AirPlay.
  • You may be offered a range of different devices you can use AirPlay to send content to. Each device will have a TV or speaker icon beside its name. Tap the name of the iOS device you wish to share content through.
  • After a few moments, your content will begin to play through your Apple TV and you’ll note that the name of the system you are streaming to will acquire a tick to its right. To disconnect just tap the name of the device you are streaming through again.

Using a Mac

You can also use AirPlay to mirror the display or to extend the desktop of any Mac using OS X El Capitan or above and an Apple TV.

Tap and hold the AirPlay icon in the menu bar, it usually sits beside the volume slider. A drop down list of available Apple TV shares appears, select the one you wish to use and you’ll see your display on your TV screen.

In addition to this when playing back some content on your Mac (QuickTime or some Safari video content) you may see the AirPlay icon appear within the playback controls. When it does you can play that content on your Apple TV just by tapping that button.


Mirroring is a very useful feature, particularly for accessing content that hasn’t yet been made available for Apple TV, such as Amazon video.

The mirroring option is visible at the bottom of the devices list when choosing to AirPlay content. Tap the button to the right of its list (toggle to green) to switch the feature on.

Now you will be able to see your iOS screen on the TV attached to Apple TV. Because your TV will use the orientation and aspect ratio of your device, it is possible an adjustment of your TV’s aspect ratio or zoom settings will be required.

Peer-to-peer AirPlay

The latest iOS devices can stream content to Apple TV (3 or 4) without necessarily being on the same Wi-Fi network. You can use this with any of the following devices, so long as they are running iOS 8 or later and have Bluetooth enabled:

  • iPhone 5 or later
  • iPad mini or iPad (4th generation or later)
  • iPod touch (5th generation or later)

If you need more help using AirPlay to stream to your Apple TV please visit this page.