Which Wireless Speakers to Buy: Bluetooth or AirPlay?

Did You Know?

Clio, from ClearView Audio, is the world’s first invisible speaker with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. These speakers provide 360° sound experience.Today, smartphones have enough memory space to accommodate all your media files. However, the quality of the inbuilt speakers is not that great, and most of us are forced to use our headphones to listen to music. However, wireless speakers are gaining popularity as useful accessories for smartphones. For streaming wireless audio from any device, you can choose to buy Bluetooth-enabled or AirPlay-enabled speakers.

The Differences

Let us take a brief look at the striking differences between the two audio streaming technologies.Feature Bluetooth AirPlay Compatible With Android and Apple devices Only Apple devices Transmission Direct Over Wi-Fi network Portable Yes No Operating Range About 30 ft (high-end devices) Depends on Wi-Fi coverage area Price Less expensive Expensive


This wireless streaming audio technology allows you to connect your iDevices to AirPlay-enabled speakers so as to play music. For this, all you need is a Wi-Fi connection in your house. AirPlay uses this Wi-Fi network to transfer the files from your iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes (from Mac or PC), to the wireless speakers. Due to the usage of home network, the proximity between the device and the speaker is not an issue. You can roam about your house using the device while your music is still playing. However, you have to be careful not to step out of the Wi-Fi coverage range.

You can add multiple devices to AirPlay; however, your music will be streamed from one device at a time, which means music from only one device will be played at a time. AirPlay can be used only by Apple products; hence, you cannot connect your Android devices to these speakers. Another drawback of this technology is the dependence on Wi-Fi network, which makes the speakers non-mobile, i.e., they cannot be used outside your home. There is a time lag that is introduced while you play music directly from iTunes or any other music app. This time lag is due to the buffering of songs, which can be frustrating if you skip tracks. The technology uses Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), which ensures that the audio quality of the tracks will not degrade.


This technology has been around since a long time and is practically available on every mobile device. Unlike AirPlay, Bluetooth-enabled speakers are ‘paired’ with the smartphones/tablets to stream music. The music files are transferred to the speaker directly without the support of a router. Due to this feature, Bluetooth-enabled speakers are portable and can be used anywhere.

This technology sure has the distance limitation. Generally, the speaker and the paired device cannot be more than 30 feet away from each other so as to play uninterrupted music. However, depending on the interference factors and speaker capabilities, this distance may vary. This technology allows a one-on-one relationship between the device and speaker. However, if you need to add more devices, depending on the speakers, you may need to disconnect the first device so as to play music from the other one. These speakers are compatible with Apple devices as well. However, you cannot directly stream music from the iTunes library. The time lag introduced in the AirPlay speakers is absent in these speakers. A few high-end models have the provision of an external mic, which means the device can double up as a speakerphone!

It is important to note that all the wireless speakers have wired input provision as well. Thus, you can connect your headphones to the speakers, to listen to high-quality music.

Our Verdict

Though AirPlay speakers are rich in audio quality, they support only Apple devices. Thus, you have a limited range of devices that can be used. However, Bluetooth-enabled speakers support all mobile devices, and hence, you have an option to plug-in an Android or Apple device. If one ignores the limitation on the transmission range, Bluetooth-enabled speakers are highly recommended. But for Apple loyalists, who swear not to use an Android device ever, go ahead and get yourselves AirPlay. My vote goes to Bluetooth-enabled wireless speakers.

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