When you want to seamlessly stream music from a mobile device or computer to a speaker or other device, it doesn't get much easier than with Apple's AirPlay service. While there are a myriad of other options to wirelessly stream music from non-Apple devices to speakers (Bluetooth being the most commonly-used one), none of them have been able to replicate the simplicity of AirPlay. DoubleTwist, the company behind a suite of well designed apps for Android, hopes to change that with its new open source MagicPlay service.
MagicPlay, which was developed in conjunction with Qualcomm and its AllJoyn framework, replicates the one-touch simplicity of AirPlay, but opens it up to many more devices without the requirement of licensing fees. That means that instead of having to charge extra for AirPlay functionality to cover Apple's license costs, speaker and device manufacturers can build MagicPlay compatibility into their devices and keep their prices at roughly the same level as standard Bluetooth devices.
MagicPlay offers the same user experience as Apple's AirPlay
The first app to make use of MagicPlay is DoubleTwist's own music player app for Android, but the source code is being made available for free, so any app developer on any platform can integrate it. It works just like AirPlay: MagicPlay compatible devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the device that is hosting the music, and then they will automatically appear as options to send audio to within the app. There is no configuration required on the part of the user — once a wireless speaker is added to a Wi-Fi network, it will just show up.
Users can easily connect to one or more speakers if available, just as with AirPlay or a Sonos system. Audio quality and connection range are also much greater than with Bluetooth, much as it is with AirPlay. It should be noted that MagicPlay is not a full replication of all of the services AirPlay offers (such as screen sharing or video) — it is really only designed to send audio to devices, whether they be speakers, computers, TVs, or in-car audio systems.
In a brief demo shown to The Verge, the service worked as advertised — the wireless speaker immediately showed up within the app once it was connected to the network and it took just one button press to send music to it. Audio quality was noticeably better than Bluetooth, and there was no perceptible lag when changing tracks on the smartphone.
DoubleTwist is releasing the source code for MagicPlay to device manufacturers now, with speakers that support the protocol expected to hit the market in the first quarter of next year. There are also plans to bring it to Google TV devices in the future. For tinkerers, the source code is also available for download from GitHub and can be installed on devices like the Raspberry Pi Linux box.
MagicPlay has two major hurdles ahead
There are two major hurdles ahead for MagicPlay: it needs to be adopted by device manufacturers, and then app developers need to integrate it into their apps, much the same way they have done with AirPlay on iOS. It's hard to say how much use of the new standard we'll see, but DoubleTwist is hoping that MagicPlay becomes the "HTTP for music," or the open standard that everyone eventually uses.