I had expected by 2013 we’d see more and more apps optimised for AirPlay mirroring; and yet that has not happened. In fact I’m seeing apps that were previously optimised ditching the functionality, for example the IMDb app.
Back In March last year the IMDb app on the iPad utilised AirPlay mirroring to create a true dual screen experience. When AirPlay mirroring was enabled in version 2.3 the TV would show the following:
(For those who can’t view the video: the app takes up the whole screen with searching spotlights)
And the iOS app would allow the user to queue multiple trailers to stream straight to the Apple TV and (here’s the cool bit) you could still use the app, you could read news, check out a films cast, rate a film – anything you could normally do in the app AND the trailers would keep on rolling.
This feature disappeared (without any explanation) in version 2.7 when the wish list feature was introduced. I’ve got two reasons they may have removed it: to lower the file size, with retina graphics some app sizes have increased substantially and to reduce the file size IMDb may have chosen to cut some code; or the feature simply wasn’t that popular. This seems the most likely, but I still feel IMDb never really pushed the feature as well as they could have.
Apple’s chance to take on the living room
Although all eyes are on Apple’s living room invasion in the form of a true Apple TV, I feel Apple really should have utilised the technology they already have to combat advances from the likes of Nintendo (Wii U), Microsoft (SmartGlass) and of course Google are rumoured to be working on an AirPlay like system. Yet even Apple’s own apps are not AirPlay optimised, and the dedicated AppStore list has just 10 apps featured on it.
Studies are showing that more and more people are “second screening”, one study from Deloitte suggested that:
“Out of the 2,000 respondents, nearly half of all 16-24 year olds used their mobile devices to discuss what they were viewing on television, and almost a quarter (24%) of all respondents are second screening.”
Naturally this means AirPlay Mirroring would suit TV catchup and streaming services to a tee. Which makes it even more of a shame that catchup TV/streaming services rarely use AirPlay, and when they do they ignore the functionality AirPlay mirroring offers.
Take the BBC iPlayer app. There’s no way to enable AirPlay streaming in-app; you have to double tap the home button and use the system wide AirPlay option. Even when you finally get AirPlay streaming working, the device becomes useless – you can’t even sleep the device without the stream stopping. Imagine instead: mirroring the device over AirPlay, with the selected TV show playing on your TV whilst your iOS device gives you show/cast/helpful or even scene specific information, or shows a stream of social conversations around the TV show that you can contribute to, or turns in to a gamepad to allow you to contribute to Game Shows; there are so many possibilities:
- Boardgames: imagine playing board games on your TV using your phone as a gamepad
- Shopping: Window shopping on your TV
- Design and coding: write code on the iPad, preview on your TV
- Video editing: edit on your device, playback through your TV
It’s not just developers that need to expand on the AirPlay functionality; Apple needs to contribute more to AirPlay if they want it to succeed. Whether it’s adding unique functionality to their own apps or adding to AirPlay APIs (one I’d really like to see is to continue streaming video in the background; thus enabling you to continue using the device as normal).
I’m not trying to say that AirPlay is something all apps need to think about, but I would like to see some developers trying something new with it.
What apps would you like to see use AirPlay effectively? Developers why haven’t we seen more apps utilise AirPlay – is it really such a niche market?