Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Works as Currently Designed

I am beginning to think the ways I use AirPlay, which seem entirely normal to me, are exotic outliers heretofore untested by Apple’s engineers because its promise does not match my experience. Here are the two ways I most frequently use AirPlay through my Apple TV:

  1. I want to listen to music on my living room speakers, so I play albums — local and streamed from Apple Music — from my iPhone or my Mac.

  2. I want to watch a movie I previously ripped from disc or a TV show I have in my library, so I will AirPlay from QuickTime on my Mac.

Both of these features are acknowledged on Apple’s AirPlay marketing webpage, but neither works as expected. In the first behaviour, for example, when I change playback from one album to another — or one playlist to another — I expect my AirPlay connection to be retained. But no; every time, I have to manually reconnect and adjust the volume to where I last set it.

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to see that my Apple TV was actually going to sleep, and that is why the connection was dropping. Sometimes, it will also fall asleep in the middle of AirPlay playback. But, strangely, it will often refuse to sleep when truly idle, even for several hours or overnight.

When I AirPlay movie files from my Mac, it is almost like the opposite problem occurs: it is my Mac which falls asleep during playback. You know how your Mac will remain awake when you are watching a movie on its own display, no matter your Energy Saver preferences? That behaviour does not carry over to AirPlay, and the Mac’s sleep timer is not suppressed. It is not as though my Mac cannot remain permanently awake — it is an iMac with an SSD. It will silently wake up without turning on the display to update iCloud Drive and make Time Machine backups. But an AirPlay connection will be terminated when the sleep timer kicks in.

I am aware of applications like Caffeine and Amphetamine that will prevent a Mac from sleeping. But they seem like they ought to be unnecessary for this use case; my Mac should just do the right thing. There is an active AirPlay connection, and it should be kept alive until I quit the app or terminate the connection.

I have filed bug reports against all of these behaviours.1 It is this last one where I received the biggest surprise: Apple closed it with the explanation that it “works as currently designed”. That is a weak excuse. Setting aside its most literal meaning, which could be applied to any bug ever, I am reporting it as a bug because it clearly does not work as it ought to.

Am I missing something? Is my AirPlay experience entirely unique? At least I was finally able to set up my Apple TV in the Home app, last year, but it did not correct any of this behaviour. I feel like I am in a world where all of my AirPlay intentions are exactly opposite, or I am an idiot who simply has no idea how to use AirPlay.

  1. FB7465311, FB9395702, FB9894231, FB9987176. ↩︎