Back in June, Apple promised us AirPlay 2, a simple way to connect and control multiple speakers together via an iPhone or other Apple device. While the feature was included in early iOS betas, by iOS 11's official release, AirPlay 2 was nowhere to be found. But now, after ten subsequent iOS 11 updates, it's finally shown its face.
Right now, AirPlay 2 appears in the iOS 11.3 beta, and Apple has stated that the final release of iOS 11.3 should be in the spring. While that is pretty general, we know it's not too far away, and it gives us plenty of time to dive into how AirPlay 2 will work once it arrives for everyone. Currently, it's only working with Apple TVs but will support Macs, HomePods, and some supported third-party speakers as time goes on.
AirPlay 2 is only compatible with iOS 11.3 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, tvOS 11.3 for Apple TV, and possibly even macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, though that last one is not confirmed. All of these builds are in beta right now, and the full releases won't come out until springtime.
To get in on the action right now, you'll need to join the Apple Beta Software Program or be a registered developer. See our guide to installing iOS 11 betas for more help on your iPhone. For Apple TV and Macs, see Apple's guides on installing tvOS and macOS betas, respectively.
If you've already been using the Home app with HomeKit accessories such as lights, switches, outlets, thermostats, cameras, etc., you're good to go. But if you've deleted it or restricted it for some reason, you'll want to reinstall or re-enable it. This is what keeps track of what rooms each AirPlay 2 compatible device are located in, and you can even control playback from within the Home app itself.
Since HomePod and compatible third-party speakers are not out yet, we'll concentrate on the Apple TV for now.
To keep track of your Apple TVs when connecting to them from another device, you'll want to make sure they're properly labeled. On your Apple TV, go into "Settings," then select "AirPlay." Next, select "Room," then choose the correct label for the room your Apple TV resides in.
Repeat this process for all of your Apple TVs. Once each has a name, you will be able to easily select on your iPhone which rooms in your house you'd like to AirPlay music or other content to without having to guess which Apple TV is which.
If you've never used AirPlay in its original form, accessing it in iOS 11 is simple. If you already have a song playing, the player should appear on the lock screen of your iPhone. Tap the icon to the right of the song's title — this is the AirPlay icon. Your iPhone will then display a list of available devices to AirPlay to.
This isn't the only place you can access the controls from. Anywhere you see the AirPlay icon is an opportunity to access this menu. You can access it from the music player in Control Center, as well as the app currently playing your music (Music, Spotify, etc.).
While you can choose any from this list to attempt to connect to, the only device that will work with AirPlay 2 at this time is Apple TV. You'll know this because it's the only one on the list that will have a checkmark option next to it. Devices with these checkmarks indicate they can be connected simultaneously. Instead of disconnecting from one Apple TV and switching to another, they will play the same song together if both checked.
You can also tap on each checked Apple TV to bring up volume controls. If you prefer one of your Apple TVs to be louder than the other, you can do so here.
All of these controls mentioned above can be found on your Apple TV as well. From the Music app, or any other AirPlay-compatible app, swipe over to the AirPlay button and select it. This will open the Apple TV AirPlay menu, which is much more involved than on your iPhone.
The first thing you'll see is a list of all compatible devices, the same as you'd find on an iPhone. However, on your Apple TV, you can swipe through your nearby Apple TVs, each of which has their own "window" of the AirPlay menu. You can pair or unpair the Apple TV from its window, as well as change its volume by swiping down, tapping on its name, and moving the volume cursor.
If you don't use smart home appliances, there's a chance you've never opened the Home app before. If you're using AirPlay 2 with Apple TVs, however, you now have a reason to.
Upon connecting your Apple TVs via AirPlay 2, they will appear in your Home app, so long as all devices are running iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3. You can play and pause music from an Apple TV in the Home app by simply tapping on its icon. By tapping "Details" at the bottom of the display, you can also see more information about that Apple TV, such as which room it belongs to, serial and model numbers, and more. You can even choose to include it in the Control Center and Home app as a "favorite accessory" for easy access.
You can choose to remove the Apple TV from the Home app by tapping "Remove Accessory" at the bottom of the display.
If you choose to test out multiroom AirPlay, just remember — this is the first beta for iOS 11.3. Things can get pretty buggy at this stage. Reserve some patience now for some frustrating situations until Apple sorts out the glitches in later updates. We can only hope things will be running smoothly by the official launch in spring.