AirPlay is Apple’s most underappreciated achievement.
Its AirTunes feature puts digital music in the home more cheaply and easily than anything else — and unlike so many Apple things, it’s widely-interoperable. Not only can you find plenty of speakers and stereo systems that have AirPlay built in, but many iOS apps include it natively, so you don’t have to do this in order to zap your Rdio playlists to your Denon sound system, for instance.
Apple AirPlay is weird, in that it works with Google Android. We’ve tracked down 10 great apps (6 + 4) for playing music from an Android phone to an AirPlay system. Wait, wouldn’t Google and Microsoft freak out that Apple is stealing their people by luring them in with its revelatory AirPlay technology? Yes and yes.
We’ve come across more fascinating Android AirPlay apps, with a twist. These ones go the other way in bridging the gap between Apple’s music ecosystem and the world of Android. They basically cause your Android to act as an AirPlay receiver.
It goes like this: You take an Android device, plug it into your stereo or speakers, then stream to it from any AirPlay device (laptop, desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.). Presto-change-o, your Android (or your old Android, or even a super cheap knock-off you buy used for this purpose alone) suddenly becomes a wireless music player for the other devices in your home.
This would work particularly well with powered bookshelf speakers or something of that nature, but really, it’s up to you. You could even take this concept to the limit by picking up a used boombox at a garage sale and connecting your Android to the aux-in on that for a new-school-meets-old-school approach, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, shall we?
We tested streaming to these apps from Windows, Mac, Rogue Amoeba AirFoil, and iOS, using two Androids. You’re welcome.
Best AirPlay Streaming from Mac: iPlay Audio AirPlay/iTunes (3-day trial or $2)
In our testing, we came across complicated apps that required extra server software (ahem, TuneSync HomeStream) and all sorts of other funny business. Not so with iPlay Audio AirPlay/iTunes. Don’t let the typos in the menus fool you — this app is super-slick and polished, and does just what you want it to do with minimal fuss (it can even auto-run upon startup).
We just have one caveat, and it’s a big one: In our testing, this app would not stream from Windows or iOS as advertised — just from our Macs. That said, there’s a free trial; maybe you’ll get different results with Windows and/or iOS. On the plus side, it worked on both Androids, whereas other apps we saw only worked on one. Android is weird.
Pro: It really couldn’t be easier to get up-and-running, and works like a charm when you’re streaming from a Mac — even using Rogue Amoeba’s AirFoil software. And if you’re streaming from iTunes, this app can even remote control it, so you can adjust what’s playing from your stereo, too. Plus, it mutes the music when someone calls your Android. Win!
Con: According to our hands-on testing, this app cannot accept AirPlay streams from iOS devices or Windows machines, even though it shows up as available. So it’s only for the Mac people.
Takeaway: If you have a Mac, and you want to stream music from it to an Android, this is the app for you.
Best AirPlay Streaming from iOS and Windows: AirBubble (30-minute session cap or $2)
We first encountered AirBubble in our very first foray into the strange world of Android AirPlay apps, and after much deliberation and testing, it’s still the best option — unless you’re going to do all of your AirPlay streaming from a Mac, in which case iPlay Audio (above) is the better bet.
Pro: It’s simple, and it worked just fine in all configurations — Mac iTunes, Windows iTunes, iOS, and AirFoil, on both Androids. Rock solid. Also, if you’re a cheapskate, you can use it forever without paying if you don’t mind restarting the app every half an hour.
Con: It lacks some of the extra features in iPlay Audio, which could actually be a good thing for some people, because playing music shouldn’t feel like rocket science anyway.
Conclusion: If you need more platform versatility in streaming AirPlay music to your Android, AirBubble is your best bet.
Another decent option that’s nearly as good as AirBubble, but with fewer options and longer latency: Android HIFI.
In the course of our testing, we came across two apps for sending AirPlay to Android that you should definitely avoid, for now anyway:
- AirPlay/DLNA Receiver didn’t work with iTunes on Windows, iTunes on Mac, or on iOS using either Android device. We assume it doesn’t work at all, although we did see it try to connect to iOS one time (and fail). Also, the pro version is $4.90.
- TuneSync HomeStream requires that you run TuneSync Server on your Mac or PC, so it’s not really using AirPlay.
Read more about Android, AirPlay, and related issues:
- Surprise: Android Smartphones Can Stream to Apple’s AirPlay Speakers
- Top 6 Android Music Apps for Apple AirPlay
- Google’s Golden Opportunity: Open-Source ‘AirPlay’
- Apple Is Stealing Android People with AirPlay
- Google Finally Wakes Up to AirPlay Threat
- Microsoft’s Crucial Answer to Apple TV: Reportedly Xbox TV
- 4 (More) Android AirPlay Music Apps
Image courtesy of Flickr/swishphotos