Mobile Talk: Why I’m dumping AirPlay in favour of SmartGlass
After a year using Apple’s AirPlay method for wireless streaming I’ve finally had enough, says Richard Goodwin. I’m a SmartGlass man from here on out
Getting Apple TV was a great day for me as it opened up a whole myriad of potentials for sharing media around my home. I’d seen the adverts, tested out AirPlay quite a bit and was pretty much sold on the technology and hardware involved.
Apple TV is dirt cheap as well by the way, costing just £99, and is so simple to setup a two-year old could do it. Just plug it into your HDTV, register your Apple ID account, connect it to the web, and you’re away. It’s really that simple (once you've coughed up for a HDMI-cable, that is. Apple doesn't include one).
Netflix comes as standard and there’s also plenty of content like films and TV shows available via iTunes, which you can either buy or rent. But the main reason I bought Apple TV was for AirPlay – a technology that enables wireless streaming over your home Wi-Fi network.
For the most part it's great having Apple TV connected up to your HDTV. It works like a charm right out the box. Just toggle the AirPlay switch on your iPad, for instance, to ‘Apple TV’ and – BANG – it starts mirroring on your HDTV, letting you watch videos, play games, and browse web documents from your iPad just on your HDTV.
But to truly get the most out of AirPlay though you need to adopt fully into Apple’s ecosystem, which means owning at least two or three of its products, including Apple TV. Getting a new Mountain Lion-powered Mac solves this issue – they support AirPlay mirroring – but that’s kind of expensive, even with Christmas approaching.
And that’s my problem. I have a Windows 8-powered desktop PC and a 2010 MacBook Air that annoyingly doesn’t support AirPlay mirroring, despite having the latest build of OS X installed – apparently it's too old to run software that works on an iPad and iPhone?
Apple TV is also very locked down and doesn’t have much in the way of UK-centric content. There’s no app store aboard Apple TV, with Apple closely guarding it’s SDK, and no LoveFilm application, either. Apple's all about the money here, as usual.
Streaming media from your PC is okay, providing you do everything through iTunes. Unfortunately I don’t want to do everything through iTunes. I hate iTunes. And this is why I’m switching to SmartGlass for my wireless streaming needs.
Sure I’ll have to buy an Xbox 360, but that’s no bad thing. Heck, I could even try and get into gaming – apparently it’s never too late.
And even if the gaming thing doesn’t work out, Microsoft’s Xbox console is so much more than a gaming device nowadays thanks to Xbox Music, Kinect, and Microsoft’s winning selection of film and TV, as well as built-in support for Netflix, LoveFilm, Sky and, of course, the best part: SmartGlass.
SmartGlass is similar to Apple’s AirPlay in that it allows you to share content wirelessly from a mobile device or a PC to a HDTV via the Xbox 360. But the big USP for SmartGlass is that it’s available on iOS and Android, as well as Windows Phone.
Here’s how SmartGlass works:
AirPlay is a great technology that’s easy to use and it works seamlessly. It’s just so locked-down, which detracts massively from its otherwise very appealing nature.
Microsoft’s SmartGlass, on the other hand, is a solution for everybody, supporting Android and iOS (a smart move) as well as Microsoft’s own Windows Phone, Windows RT, and Windows 8 operating systems.
AirPlay is very much an Apple-only solution. But SmartGlass is for Windows, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone – so whatever devices you have in your house, chances are they’ll work with SmartGlass.
In this sense it’s the first universal wireless sharing application that actually works, allowing you to quickly and seamlessly share data from one device, say your Android tablet, to a HDTV without the need for wires. All that’s required is an Xbox 360.
Consider Christmas 2013 sorted.