Explained: The differences between Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Cast

4 min read

Apple just announced the biggest upgrade to AirPlay that we’ve seen in years, and it’s called AirPlay 2. With it, you’ll now be able to stream the same song to multiple AirPlay 2 devices with their multiroom support. This was previously possible on Mac, but now is possible on iOS devices and the HomePod. This upgrade brings AirPlay into the same playing field as Google Cast, but they’re still not equal: let me explain why.

How Google Cast Works

Google Cast is the technology behind the Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, and other devices that feature support for Chromecast. You can stream photos, music, videos, your screen, and more to TVs and speakers either through built-it Cast technology or via the Chromecast. All the media you would want to “Cast” can be done from laptops, tablets, phones — pretty much any device works. To cast something, all you have to do is press the cast icon and then select a nearby Chromecast device, either one that’s in the same room or on the same WiFi network.

Technically speaking, when you send the command to cast a piece of media, your device sends a command to the Chromecast device to fetch that media from the cloud and play it. That media is controlled via your device, but you could walk out of the house and the media would still play just fine — but you can’t control it any longer. This does exclude local media on your device or sharing your screen, but everything else like YouTube, Play Music, and Google Photos works by fetching the respective media from the cloud and displaying it on the Chromecast.

This method has one key advantage: there’s simply less travel for each byte of data. If one were to map out the “distance” the data has to travel, it comes from the server to your ISP, to your router, and then via WiFi/Ethernet to the Chromecast.

How Apple AirPlay 2 Works

Apple AirPlay 2 is the technology exclusive to Apple devices that, much like Chromecast, allows you to stream photos, music, videos, your screen, and more to Apple TV’s, HomePods, and other AirPlay-enabled devices. Macs, iPads, and iPhones all have the ability to AirPlay content to receiving devices. In order to AirPlay (is that even a verb?) something, you’d just open the devices menu in Apple Music to connect to a device or tap the AirPlay icon in other apps like YouTube. Again like Chromecast, you do need to be on the same WiFi network or nearby to the device.

On the technical side of things, it is fundamentally different from how the Google Chromecast operates. Instead of sending a command to fetch a piece of content, when you AirPlay a piece of music, it directly sends that music from your phone/tablet/Mac to that device. The only exception to this is the HomePod, which has the ability to directly connect to Apple Music and stream the content on its own.

That means there is a major disadvantage to this method: if your WiFi connection to your phone dips too low, or you leave the house, the music stops because the AirPlay speaker relies on your device to receive media. To map this method out, it would look like the media coming from the server to your ISP, then to your router, then via WiFi to your device, and finally via WiFi to your AirPlay speaker. If you’ve ever used AirPlay, you’ll notice that there is a significant delay when starting music — often about two seconds.

Which is better?

The AirPlay 2 update is huge for AirPlay users, as it means that certain bugs and annoyances have been fixed, as well as support for multiroom support and multiple HomePods being added. This means that functionality wise, it’s on the same field as Google Chromecast. Each technology works quite well on their respective platforms, so if you’re invested into Apple already then AirPlay accessories are a natural extension. Likewise, if you’re invested into Google products such as Android phones, Chromebooks, and Google Home, Chromecast devices are a natural extension.

But, I have to hand it to Google on this one. Not only does their solution require one less point of failure, but it also works a tad faster. What’s more, Chromecast works on more devices. Even on my iPhone, I can cast YouTube videos, Play Music, Spotify, and Google Photos up to the big screen. I can’t do that on my Android phone. It’s simply not possible to send YouTube videos from my Android phone to my Apple TV or AirPlay my Apple Music from my Android phone to my AirPlay speaker.

We hope this explained article was helpful! Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on social media. Be on the looking for AirPlay 2 support with the iOS 11.4 update coming today.

Source: The Verge