I recently started working with a British publication dedicated to Android phones and tablets. The downside to this was that just weeks before I had sold my much-loved HP TouchPad, upon which I had installed Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a move that left me without a suitable device.
A trip to a local used goods store brought me into contact with the LG Optimus 3D P920, a suitable phone for upgrading and making screenshots. Following some quick checks online via my usual phone, I bought the device – and soon made an interesting discovery.
What was exciting about this phone wasn’t the fact that it had stereoscopic cameras, but that beside the usual USB port was an HDMI connector.
The world of viewing Android through a HDTV was just minutes away – and it can be for you, too.
Equipment You Will Need
There are two ways in which you can connect your Android device to a TV via HDMI. The first is to own a phone with an HDMI-out port. Such devices include:
- Sony Xperia S
- LG Optimus 2x
- LG Optimus 3D P920
- Motorola RAZR HD XT925
You can find an almost-comprehensive list of devices at GSMArena. You will also need a HDMI cable with a standard Type A connector at one end and the Type D connector at the other (note that although it is visually similar, this is not compatible with micro-USB).
If you don’t own any of these devices, don’t worry. You can also purchase a converter that for a low price will convert signals from the micro-USB connector to the HDMI cable and display the output on your chosen TV or monitor.
Compatibility for the converters differs across devices. Samsung phones and tablets work with them, as do some HTC and Motorola, but others may not. Don’t simply go out and buy a generic adaptor – instead, search Google: “USB HDMI adaptor for [ANDROID DEVICE]” and see what comes up. Often the first result will take you to an Amazon page for the piece of equipment you need.
Don’t forget that you will of course need a HDTV, or at least a HD-capable display with an HDMI port. At a stretch you might use a HDMI-to-VGA or –RGB converter, but the quality and reliability of the output from an Android phone may prove unsuitable.
Hooking Up Your Phone to Your HDTV
This is the easy part, really – connecting the HDMI cable to your TV. Make sure your TV is switched off before proceeding, and disconnect your phone from the cable.
Depending on how you have your TV or monitor arranged, it might prove tricky. In particular, with TVs that are mounted against a wall it can be difficult to connect the cable. If possible, use an L-shaped adaptor or a small HDMI extension cable from the back of the TV, particularly if you foresee connecting your phone to your high definition TV becoming a regular “thing”.
Once connected to the TV, attach the phone and adaptor, if using, and then switch on your TV. Use your TV remote to switch to the HDMI channel, and then make sure your phone is switched on, the screen is on and the device unlocked.
Depending upon which version of Android you’re using, you should see either an exact replica of what’s on your phone or tablet (Ice Cream Sandwich and later) or the option to play what’s on your phone through the HDMI cable. This will appear in the top left corner when you load up video and photos.
If this doesn’t happen, what you will probably see instead is everything on your phone or tablet display – hardly a bad alternative!
Gaming with a HDTV and Android
Similarly, you will be able to output your Android display for gaming. The ramifications of this are considerable. Mobile gaming suddenly becomes a public pastime rather than a private one, and you might even stop using your game console.
I was concerned that there may be some latency, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, other than occasionally checking the phone display to make sure you’re putting your fingers in the right place, your focus when gaming will more than likely be completely aimed at your HDTV or monitor.
The possibilities are considerable. I’ve only tested with a handful of titles, such as the pictured Radiant Defense. Full-on arcade titles and even presentation software can take advantage of a HDMI link to your display in surprising ways.
Conclusion: It’s HDMI, Why Wait?
With the right hardware you can enjoy the high quality output of your Android phone or tablet on your HDTV. Whether gaming, looking at photos or enjoying music, the possibilities are intriguing.
You might, for instance, be running Plex or XBMC for Android on your phone or tablet. Your once-personal portable media centre (which might have had some LAN broadcast possibilities) is now a fully-fledged media centre, capable of displaying movies and TV shows on your family TV for everyone to enjoy.
With the price of a HDMI converter or suitable cable for your HDMI-equipped phone so low, it seems a huge waste to ignore this feature. Although you might prefer not to play on a 40 inch display…