Using your iPhone as Wireless Headphones

If you’re anything like me, you commonly find that most earphones simply don’t have a long enough cable. Being tethered to a short wire can be surprisingly frustrating. Fortunately there’s a way to stay completely tangle-free, wirelessly streaming audio to your iPhone using an application called AirPhones.

No matter whether you’re three or thirty feet away from your Mac, providing both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network you’re able to listen to any computer audio remotely. This walkthrough will explain how to get started along with a few tips and tricks to get the most from the system.

What is AirPhones?

AirPhones is a $5 iPhone/iPod touch application, available through the App Store. It connects to your Mac, and can stream audio wirelessly to your iPhone earphones. It works with any application, so it’s suitable for listening to music, watching video, or even talking over software such as Skype.

Getting Set Up

You’ll need to download both the iPhone app and desktop software. Launch the application on your Mac, ensure that both devices are connected to the same network, then proceed to open the app on your iPhone.

If everything goes to plan you should hear a friendly “ping”, followed by this prompt:

Connecting to your Mac

Connecting to your Mac

Accept the connection, and audio will begin streaming immediately. Simple! The iPhone interface is remarkably clutter-free, containing only a volume slider to control the level of sound.

A few extra preferences are available for altering AirPhones settings on the Mac:

AirPhones Preferences

AirPhones Preferences

The AirPhones server can be turned off if you’d like to resume listening to audio directly on your Mac, and you can adjust whether or not the application will display an icon in the Dock.

Working Without a Wi-Fi Network

From time-to-time, you may find yourself in a place without an available Wi-Fi network. Your Mac has the ability to create one, through clicking the Airport menu bar icon and selecting “Create Network…”

Creating a Network

Creating a Network

After creating a network you’ll be able to connect directly from your iPhone. AirPhones will pick up the device, and you can listen away to your heart’s content!

Limitations

At present the audio passed through AirPhones is mono only. This is a seemingly unusual limitation, as the connection speed of a Wi-Fi network is certainly more than capable of supporting much better quality audio. You’re also likely to experience a (very) slight amount of latency, which can be a little annoying when watching video.

AirPhones2 is scheduled for release before the end of May, which should offer superior sound quality and virtually no latency. The update will be free for those who have already purchased the app.

Conclusion

If you don’t want to be constrained by wires, AirPhones offers a low budget alternative to purchasing a pair of wireless headphones. Setting up is simple, and can work well whether or not an external Wi-Fi network is available. A few quality issues do mar the experience at present, but these are likely to be fixed in the near future.

If Apple do announce background application support in the near future, AirPhones would become a great deal more useful. Streaming audio to your phone whilst controlling playback through Apple’s Remote App could be a fantastic wireless solution!


  • http://www.sanneterpstra.com/ Sanne Terpstra

    I used to use this app a lot, until I bought an Airport express :)

    Great app!

  • Alex

    Quoting: “Streaming audio to your phone whilst controlling playback through Apple’s Remote App could be a fantastic wireless solution!”

    This fantastic wireless solution already exist through SimplifyMedia (free) running on a computer and Simplify Media 2 running on your iPhone (around 3$ I guess…). It allows to stream through WiFi (even 2 different WiFi for the computer and the iPhone/iPod touch) or even 3G network!!!

    Cheers!

  • http://eugeniogrigolon.com Eugenio Grigolon

    Wow, nice app. I’ll certainly give a try!

  • http://www.ryanleach.com Ryan Leach

    This looks fun, thanks!

    @Alex: Although i haven’t tried them yet it looks like SimplifyMedia only works with iTunes, while AirPhones works with whatever sound source you want. Am I missing something about SimplifyMedia?

    • Alex

      @Ryan Leach: Yeah, you’re right! But I was just saying that SimplifyMedia can replace the ‘Apple’s Remote App + AirPhones’ bundle (which is obviously for listening iTunes) as mention in the quote. Sorry if it wasn’t clear…

  • http://www.mindsmack.com Sam @ MindSmack.com

    This app rocks, excellent work!

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  • mickeytosh

    um i think airfoil is a much better alternative

  • Michael

    don’t like it. too much lag

  • http://airphonesapp.com/ Chris

    We’re about to release an update, ‘no’ lag, clear, high quality output, Windows support too. This isn’t the same as Simplify, this works for movies too for example. Basically it’s wireless headphones for any audio.

  • Adam

    Hey Chris, Are you broadcasting the sound in lossless?

  • fractalfrog

    Thanks for the tip! Never heard about this app before but went to the appstore and bought it after reading your article.
    The app isn’t perfect but still it is good fun so far :-)
    The problems with lag and quality have already been mentioned but I have also experienced a couple of audio drop-outs and the output volume is a bit low – although in all fairness that might be an iPhone thing.
    However, even with the current limitations/problems I think it’s well spent $4 :-)

  • http://www.euan.co.nr euaneggs

    Why not just listen to the music on your iPhone, 16GB is plenty really isn’t it??

  • fractalfrog

    My main reason for getting this app is to use it as a “poor-mans” airport express and stream the music from my Mac into my mixer/soundsystem.
    I receive a lot of music from promoters and artists and, when I’m not in my studio, it’s nice to be able to listen to these tracks on my home system.

    Beside, 16 GB actually isn’t that much when you have all your music as uncompressed wav’s…
    Personally I wouldn’t touch an mp3 with a 10 foot pole ;-P

  • Viv

    Well I was looking for wireless headphones and I came across this site using google, and how glad I am. Most of the headphones were in a price range of £60 to £200, after reading the comments about airphone I decide to give it a go and the cost 59p and its absolutely brilliant. I live in an upstairs flat and although I have never had any complaints, I am always concerned it may be too loud while watching movies on my mac late at night while in bed, now that worry has gone for 59p lol. My thanks to all who put their reviews on here. Viv

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  • Tanner

    I just posed a video on this on YouTube. Check it out!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnxkB31FvYc

  • DC

    Too much lag in Windows 7. Unusable…

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  • marcos

    Please help doesn’t work. Lots of lag.

    M

  • http://www.headphones.com/Headphones.html Best Headphones

    Good read. Thanks for giving instructions on how to use your iPod to receive audio streams from your PC via this application.

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