High Five #10 - Our 5 Favorite iOS "Tricks"

The slogan of AAAD is "building an iOS home, bit by bit." 

We're trying to leverage Apple and iOS to the greatest extent possible. These are some of the best, most   helpful uses of iOS that we've seen so far.

5. Play your entire iTunes library through your stereo, using your iPhone. 

Any house that's trying to go all-iOS is going to be heavily reliant on iTunes. We have a massive music library, and I'm happy that I no longer have to buy furniture to store and display all of those albums.

That said, the move from physical discs and jewel cases to all-digital has one drawback - it's easy to forget what music you have. Heck, it's easy to forget that you have a music collection at all. Out of sight, out of mind. 

iTunes and AirPlay change all of that. Set up Home Sharing, link your iPhone, and you can play any of the music you own, over any AirPlay device you choose. You never even have to go to your Mac - just adjust the playlist (or the volume) on the fly from your iPhone, and it happens immediately. 

I'm sure that Sonos offers a more unified, elegant solution. And it allows you to play different songs in different rooms. 

But AirPlay is free. Advantage AirPlay.

4. Replace your DirecTV controller with your iPad

Seriously. The DirecTV controller is fantastic - and there's an RF model that's even better and super-affordable - but the iPad is the greatest remote control device that the world has ever seen. 

Using the iPad as your primary DirecTV controller is such a refined, almost perfect experience - it seems like it should be a part of a $1,000-plus home automation / universal remote system. 

Turn on the DirecTV app, and you're immediately given a home screen showing what you're watching now, what the most-watched shows are are at the moment (both for your time zone and nationally), and a column with up-to-the minute sports scores.

(It's all updated constantly - last night, the 9th inning of the Rangers/Astros game on MLB Network was briefly among the most-watched shows, as Yu Darvish had a perfect game going through 8 2/3.)

Click on a show's icon, and the TV changes to that show. Click on a sports score, and you're given the option to change the channel to that game.   

If you prefer browsing, click on the guide, and you're shown the DirecTV grid guide. Scroll through, pick a show, and the TV channel changes. As Apple would say, it's magical

3. Turn Any Device into a SiriusXM Satellite Radio

Every couple of weeks, I get an email from SiriusXM asking if I'd be interested in one of their mobile devices. 

I can't imagine why I would be - SiriusXM's mobile apps are so good at this point that it makes adding specialized hardware completely unnecessary. 

And, for that matter, it makes adding a SiriusXM Internet Radio subscription an absolute must.

Simply attach an Airport Express to any audio system with a $2 mini-to-RCA cable, and that audio system becomes SiriusXM-capable, and controllable with your iPhone or iPad. 

All SiriusXM content is available - live streaming, and in many cases (such as Howard Stern) - on demand.  

We found that the new, combined "All Access" tier at SiriusXM was actually somewhat cheaper than what we'd been paying for a car subscription, an internet subscription, and satellite traffic updates. 

2. AirPlay Spotify (and any other Mac Audio) to Any Device

I previously wrote a post on this topic - one which consistently gets the most hits on AAAD, month after month. 

Even though the free version of Spotify doesn't natively support AirPlay, it's still possible to AirPlay your Spotify music from a Mac, even if you don't have a premium subscription. 

That's because you can AirPlay any sound coming from your Mac, just by selecting an AirPlay speaker as an output device. 

Click and hold the "Option" button on your keyboard, then click the volume icon at the top of the screen. Switch from "built-in speakers" to whatever AirPlay device you may want. Done.

Be aware, of course, that you're streaming everything - not just your Spotify application. So if your son has a Nick Jr. java game open, you'll be hearing its sound effects alongside your playlist. 

1. Stream Video (Including HBO GO) to AppleTV with AirPlay

Late last week, my wife and I realized that we hadn't seen the season 2 finale of "Game of Thrones" yet. (It was RIGHT while we were moving, and the WOW cable wasn't set up, and so forth.) 

We have DirecTV and HBO, so basically everything is available OnDemand. We queued up "Valor Morgulis", opened a bottle of wine, and waited. 

5 minutes later, we were at 3% downloaded. This was not going to work. 

I pulled out my iPhone 5, opened the HBO GO app, selected the same episode, and hit "play". Almost immediately, the AppleTV was playing the familiar theme song. 

Initially, the picture quality was passable, but artifact-y. By the end of the opening credits, we were watching Game of Thrones in high-definition via HBO GO and AirPlay. And we never had to deal with any buffering issues. 

Keep in mind, this was through my smartphone, over a 15 Mbps internet connection - which was also being used by DirecTV to download the same episode in high-def

We live in interesting, exciting times. 


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