Apple branches out with iTunes, AirPlay 2 for third-party TVs

LAS VEGAS—Apple has for years carefully maintained a walled garden for its streaming video features and services. Watching content on iTunes requires some form of Apple device, whether it's an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. And if you want to stream video from your iPhone or iPad over AirPlay, you likewise need an Apple TV.

There are, of course, exceptions; Google's Chromecast works with iOS devices, and AirPlay audio consists almost entirely on third-party speakers. but generally, if you want Apple video, you need to be committed to the Apple ecosystem.

That policy is changing, with Apple's AirPlay 2 streaming platform coming to three major TV manufacturers this year. At CES here, LG, Samsung, and Vizio all announced support for AirPlay 2 on their various smart TV platforms. More surprising is that Samsung smart TVs will also get the iTunes app.

Starting in spring 2019, Samsung's smart TVs will support AirPlay 2 streaming, meaning iPhone, iPad, and Mac users will be able to stream audio and video from their devices to compatible 2019 Samsung TVs. As AirPlay 2 devices, the TVs will show up as screens to which content can be sent on iOS and macOS, just like an Apple TV or AirPlay speaker.

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Samsung confirmed that its 4K and 8K QLED TVs and The Frame and Serif TVs will get AirPlay 2 support, along with an unspecified selection of other 4K and 1080p smart TVs.

Samsung's announcement would have been a first for streaming video over AirPlay to a third-party device, had LG and Vizio also not made similar announcements.

Vizio will bring AirPlay 2 not only to its 2019 SmartCast TVs, but to all Vizio SmartCast TVs dating back to 2016. The SmartCast platform was originally based almost entirely on Google Cast, letting its TVs act as if a Google Chromecast was connected. Since it launched, SmartCast has developed into a functional connected TV platform in its own right, with both Google Cast as a backbone and a modest selection of apps and streaming services on top of it. With AirPlay 2 added to SmartCast, Vizio covers both major ways to show video from your mobile device on your TV.

Meanwhile, LG is also bringing AirPlay 2 to all its 2019 ThinQ AI TVs, including the company's 8K OLED and LCD, and 4K rollable OLED TVs.

AirPlay 2 support includes compatibility with Apple's HomeKit home automation platform. HomeKit enables Apple users to control compatible TVs with Siri, and to integrate the TVs with other HomeKit devices to program activities. Voice assistant and home automation commands have been available on all three companies' smart TV platforms in various ways (Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa controls on LG and Vizio TVs, Bixby on Samsung), but again, Apple integration is a new feature.

The AirPlay 2 support isn't Samsung's only Apple-focused announcement at CES, however. Samsung TVs will get the distinction of being the first non-Apple home entertainment devices to access iTunes video via the iTunes Movies & TV Shows app, letting people stream video from Apple's store without an Apple TV. The app has not been announced for LG, Vizio, or any other non-Apple smart TV platform, and is a significant boon for Samsung TVs.

Of course, with AirPlay support, iOS device owners can stream iTunes content to LG or Vizio TVs, but only Samsung will offer access to that content without needing to use at least some other Apple product.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.