Does AirPlay Require Wi-Fi?

Apple develops tech to stream endless possibilities of music and movies between devices.  Apple’s AirPlay is a great and convenient way to do this.  Everything is on your personal network rather than on a third-party platform like YouTube or Pandora.  

From your AirPlay-compatible device, like a tablet or smart phone, you can stream your media through devices on the same network like stereos and TVs.  The AirPlay device displays track information, titles and artists.  But does AirPlay require Wi-Fi to use it? 

Does AirPlay Require Wi-Fi? 

To set up devices for TV and music streaming, you must have an internet connection.  But to actually play music and movies, you do not have to have Wi-Fi; it won’t work if it’s connected.  This means there’s an offline mode and you won’t be able to access any live, online content while in use. 

How Does AirPlay Work with Wi-Fi? 

AirPlay uses Bluetooth for discovery and syncing with a point-to-point Wi-Fi connection for data transfer.  Look for apps and programs that are compatible to whatever interface your TV or stereo supports. 

There are two modes through which AirPlay works.  The first is mirroring, where a video of the device screen streams though the TV or stereo system.  This is the method that doesn’t require Wi-Fi.  The other is a basic and direct stream from the internet to your output device.  

How Do You Use AirPlay Between Devices? 

To use AirPlay for sending and receiving streaming video and audio, your devices must be on the same local network.  This can be wireless via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or through a wired connection, like Ethernet.  AirPlay will detect any Bluetooth-capable devices and allows you to manage them with your other network-accessible AirPlay options. 

Ways to Setup AirPlay with Wi-Fi 

There are two ways to setup AirPlay with a Wi-Fi connection: 

  • AirPort Express – a small, portable wireless router that interconnects all Apple-capable devices whether or not you have an available internet connection.  There’s no additional equipment or setup.  A stereo can connect right into the device to use as a source for movies and music or through the output device, like Apple TV or speakers. 
  • Home Network – a home network setup with a wireless router that already shares service to multiple computers will also work to setup AirPlay.  All you have to do is connect each AirPlay-enabled device to the same network. 

When you are certain sure all AirPlay devices are on the same network, each source can detect all potential receivers, or outputs.  For instance, if you connect an iPhone to the network, you can then play your iTunes through AirPlay-enabled speakers in your bedroom. 

Can Apple TV Connect to a Hotspot?
Can Apple TV Connect to a Hotspot?

AirPlay-Enabled Apps 

Apps enabled for AirPlay will scan for Wi-Fi networks to detect compatible devices.  When the connection is possible, the AirPlay icon will appear on the app’s display.  Upon accessing the menu, you can choose which individual devices you want to receive the streaming media.  

Sharing Between Computers 

But this won’t work if you want to share between two computers on the same network, the AirPlay menu will not show up.  This is because the personal computer versions of iTunes already have a built-in library for sharing with other users on the network.  This makes AirPlay redundant for computer-to-computer sharing. 

Are All Apple Devices Compatible with AirPlay? 

Not all Apple devices are compatible with AirPlay; only the latest versions of Apple will work: 

Source Devices 

  • Apple TV 4K or Apple TV HD1 
  • iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch 
  • iTunes on Mac or PC 
  • Mac  

Output Devices 

  • Various Apple TV versions; Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K 
  • HomePod 
  • AirPort Express Speakers connected to the Audio Out 
  •  “Works with Apple AirPlay” indicated on speaker packaging 

How to Use AirPlay without Wi-Fi? 

  1. Using Bluetooth, connect your devices so that they communicate with each other.  If using Apple TV, this will be the default setting.  Turn on the Bluetooth function in the settings of your iOs device. 
  1. Turn on the Wi-Fi for your iOs device.  Your AirPlay controls should appear as Screen Mirroring in the Control Center.  If it doesn’t display, try moving your devices closer together.  Failing that, restart the iOs device. 
  1. When Screen Mirroring appears, tap on it.  Apple TV should be there.  Any password prompts should display on the Apple TV; enter that and you can mirror what you want from your iOs device to the TV. 
  1. Disconnect everything from any Wi-Fi network though the settings on your TV, app and iOs device.  You can either turn off the Wi-Fi directly or select “Forget Network.”  
  1. Only “Forget Network” if you have to prevent your devices from automatically connecting to your Wi-Fi.  You will have to setup your Wi-Fi connection again if you hit “Forget Network,” so use caution when doing this so you can get in later. 

Are There Any Other Ways to Mirror without Wi-Fi? 

There is one other way to mirror your iOs device and that’s with HDMI.  You can link your iOs source device to any TV with an Apple Lightning Connector cable.  Attach it to the bottom of the iOs device and then to the TV. 

This is a much faster and easier method if you don’t mind dealing with a bunch of cables.  Also, you don’t need Apple TV to make it work.  So long as your TV has an HDMI port, there’s no fussing around.  To stop the connection, all you have to do is unplug the devices. 

You can use other connector cables too, not just ones made by Apple.  Upon ensuring you won’t damage any of your hardware, this will work well also.  But, of course, using pure Apple products for this process is the only way to guarantee damage prevention. 

AirPlay Is Easy To Use 

AirPlay functions are not difficult in setting up or using.  Once you understand the mechanism, it’s pretty quick and simple. Although you need a Wi-Fi connection to set it up wirelessly, you don’t need one to play your music and movies. 

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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