AirPlay on Roku: This changes everything

A bunch of Roku players just got a lot more useful this week with the launch of Apple AirPlay and HomeKit support.

If you have a supported 4K Roku player or TV and either an iPhone or iPad running at least iOS 12.3, you can use AirPlay to send videos, music, and photos to your TV from a wide range of mobile apps. This is the first time AirPlay has been available on streaming boxes and sticks other than Apple’s own Apple TVs (though some recent smart TVs support AirPlay as well). With 4K Roku players starting at $40, versus $180 for the Apple TV 4K, they’re a much cheaper way to add AirPlay to any television.

While it might seem like a small feature, AirPlay adds a lot of capabilities that Roku previously lacked, including HBO Max support, easy music playback from your phone, and even big-screen video chat. I’d argue that the arrival of AirPlay is Roku’s most substantial software update in years.

Here’s a rundown of some things you can now accomplish on certain Roku players that were difficult or impossible to pull off before:

Watch HBO Max on Roku

With AirPlay support, there’s finally a workaround for Roku’s missing HBO Max support: Just connect an iPhone or iPad to your Roku via AirPlay, then use the HBO Max mobile app to start playing a video. You can activate AirPlay in either of two ways:

  • Open Control Center on your iPhone or iPad by swiping down from the top-right corner. (If your iPhone has a home button, swipe up from the bottom of the screen instead.) Then, hit the AirPlay button at the top of your playback controls and select your Roku from the device list.
  • Start playing a video in HBO Max first, then hit the AirPlay button at the top of the video screen and select your Roku from the device list.

In both cases, the video should pop up on your TV in full resolution, with playback controls appearing on your phone or tablet. You can also use the regular Roku remote to pause, fast forward, or rewind.

HBO even seems to be encouraging this workaround, with its AirPlay help page calling out Roku support in particular. It’s the best way to watch HBO Max on Roku devices while the two companies work out their issues.

Use your phone as the remote

Of course, AirPlay support works with lots of other video apps as well, including Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and CBS All Access. Just use the same methods as described above to start playing video on the big screen. If you’ve already got your phone in-hand, this might be faster than reaching for the remote.