A Look At Apple AirPlay 2 And HomeKit Support On Roku Devices

Not too long ago, Roku announced that they were bringing support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to their devices and 4K TVs. This is something that Roku that were in the Apple ecosystem have wanted for a very long time. Now to be clear, not every Roku device will get this new functionality as part of Roku’s rollout of Roku OS 9.4. To see if your Roku device is part of this rollout, Roku have a list that you can find here. If you have a Roku TV, you might want to reach out to your TV manufacturer to see if they are rolling this support out. In my case, I have a Roku Streambar and a TCL TV which both got version 9.4 recently. And I have had a chance to walk through what this new functionality has to offer.

I’ll start with HomeKit support. Once the 9.4 update is on your device, you’ll see it in the Home app:

In my case there’s both the Streambar and Roku TV which is how my TCL TV is identified. Digging into either device brings up this:

Like any other HomeKit device, you can add it to a Scene, which is a way to control several HomeKit devices at once, and create automations. Such as the one that is listed above which is to turn off the Streambar when the last person leaves home. It uses the location of iPhones and Apple Watches to determine if people are home or not. And in the case of my wife and I we have both devices and it works reliably. You’ll need to set your Roku device up in the Home app, but the set up process is really easy.

Now over to AirPlay 2.

For this example, I used my iPhone 12 Pro to broadcast a song to my choice of AirPlay 2 devices. That includes both Roku devices and the HomePod Mini in my bedroom. When you select a Roku device, it displays the album art on the screen:

One catch though. This takes over your TV and punts you out whatever Roku app that you’re in, as well as switching you from whatever input you happen to be watching. For example, if I was using the HDMI input that is attached to my computer, and I want to play some background music while playing Call Of Duty Warzone, I can’t as it will punt me out the computer input and play the music on with the album art displayed. This is also true for the Streambar. While I acknowledge that this is an edge case, it would be a nice to have. I will note that I suspect that this has more to do with Apple rather than Roku. But I’d be interested to hear if other smart TVs with AirPlay 2 support do the same thing.

The other thing that you can do with AirPlay 2 is to mirror the display of your iOS device or your Mac to your TV. On an iOS device simply go to Control Center and choose Screen Mirroring:

You should then see something like this:

My iPhone in this case see both Roku devices. If you’re on macOS, you may have an AirPlay icon in your menu bar that allows you to choose the device to AirPlay to:

If you don’t have this icon, simply go to System Prefences –> Display and make sure that this option is enabled:

The one thing that I will note in all cases is that there is a bit of lag when using AirPlay. But it isn’t objectionable.

With AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, you can use Siri on your iPhone to send a video to your TV. You can also ask Siri to play a specific show in a specific room. Or you can ask Siri to play specific song on a specific TV. That really extends the functionality of AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.

There’s one last thing that I want to touch on. I posted a story not too long ago about the rollout of Roku OS 9.4 not going well. Now I’ve been watching social media as well as the so called “mega thread” thread on Reddit and my observation is that the noise surrounding this update is starting to calm down as I see that the volume of complaints is decreasing since I originally posted my story. This implies that Roku is getting a handle on this, but issues still exist. I also note that in the Reddit “mega thread” as well as on Twitter that Roku is trying to help people as best as they can. And that’s a good thing. But it would have been nice if Roku had gotten back to me with their side of the story as it would have been valuable to yours truly as well as the people who reached out to me to bring this to my attention to understand what happened here. That part is disappointing. But at least things appear to be moving in a more positive direction and I hope those with issues are getting them addressed in a timely and fulsome manner.

Roku OS 9.4 with HomeKit and AirPlay 2 support is currently rolling out. If you don’t have it yet, it will eventually show up on your Roku device. Or on your Roku device, go to Home –> Settings –> System –> System Update > Check now and see if it downloads. It’s definitely going to add value to your Roku device.

One Response to “A Look At Apple AirPlay 2 And HomeKit Support On Roku Devices”

  1. […] TVs with great sound. And it gives “smart” TVs better sound. Plus it supports Apple HomeKit and AirPlay 2 which makes it very versatile. And all for under $200 CDN which makes this a very compelling […]

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