The iPhone has access to a huge volume of content like photos, games and streaming video. Your television can play that content in all of its glory, offering a huge improvement over your phone’s small display. Seems like a match made in heaven, right?
That depends. Though playing content on your TV via your iPhone is great, it’s not possible out of the box – you need to add this capability with adapters, apps or hardware. Here are the five easiest ways to send content from your iPhone to your TV.
Physical Connection Via Apple AV Adapter
The easiest way to play media on your television from an iPhone is to use an official Apple AV Adapter, which converts your iPhone’s 30-pin or Lightening port to HDMI. There are also adapters that output to Component, Composite or VGA. Your iPhone should be detected as if it were a streaming media player like a Roku or Apple TV.
Video will only play from apps that support video out. In some cases, support from an app may be dictated by the model of iPhone you have. Hulu’s app, for example, only handles video out on an iPhone 4S (or newer).
Using the adapter is pretty simple, but it’s also costly. Prices vary between $30 and $50 depending on the type of video output you need. Also, this requires a wired connection between your iPhone and your television, which can be inconvenient if your television is far from your couch.
DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance, and it’s a standard (like WiFi or USB) that’s meant to make connecting different home media devices easy. Many televisions support DLNA, and so does the PlayStation 3, streaming media players from Netgear and Western Digital, and plenty of other set-top hardware.
To use DLNA you’ll need to download an app that turns your iPhone into a DLNA server. I use ArkMC, which comes in a free lite version and a paid version for $4.99. Once you’ve opened the app and granted the relevant permissions, ArkMC makes photos, videos and music stored on your iPhone available for play. Other DLNA devices connected to your home network should automatically discover your iPhone, and all you need to do then is select it.
Though simple, this option has some notable limitations. You can play files stored on your iPhone, but you can’t play streaming content from an app (like a video, or a game). This option is great for viewing a photo album or watching a movie you own as a video file, but useless for Netflix or Hulu.
All iPhones come with the ability to stream video using AirPlay, which is Apple’s proprietary version of DLNA. You’ll need an Apple TV (or other AirPlay device) along with WiFi and an iPhone to make this option work. Software solutions like AirServer also work for sending video to a Mac or Windows PC.
You can turn on and start broadcasting or mirroring using AirPlay via the iOS 7 Control Center (the menu which appears when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen). Tap the AirPlay button and select your AirPlay destination.
That’s all there is to it. Once AirPlay is turned on, any photos, videos or apps that support video-out will display on your television via Apple TV. The iPhone effectively becomes a remote control, and there are even a few iOS games (like Worms 3) that let you use your phone as a controller while the game plays on your television.
YouTube has a neat feature called Pair which makes it possible to pair an Android with any media device that will run a relatively recent version of the iOS YouTube app. This includes most smart televisions, media streaming boxes, and even game consoles.
Depending on your hardware, this feature may activate automatically. You’ll know that it’s functioning when you see an icon in the upper right hand corner of every video which looks like a television and a WiFi icon combined. Tap on it, then tap the device you want to stream the video to. That device will automatically open its YouTube app and start playing.
Other devices (like the Xbox 360) won’t appear automatically, but can be paired using a simple process. Just open the app on the device you’d like to use, then go to Settings and select Pair. A code will appear on-screen. Open Safari and go to youtube.com/pair then enter the code you were given, and presto! You can now play YouTube videos on your television.
Technically, this isn’t’t streaming because the videos are played on the device you paired with rather than your phone, which is just acting as a remote. That has an upside, though; you can now use the phone for other activities without interrupting your YouTube video.
Roku’s iPhone App
The Roku has proven to be one of the best streaming media players in existence and a strong competitor to the Apple TV. Many iPhone owners have one instead of Apple’s box, and while it’s not possible to stream games to a Roku, the photo, music and video sharing features can be replicated.
All you need to do is download the Roku app, which is free, and login into it with your Roku account. Once you’ve done that, go to the Play On Roku option at the bottom of the app’s main menu. This will direct you to folder views of any music, photos or video on your phone. Just tap what you want to watch (or hear) and it will play via your Roku-connected TV within seconds. You can continue to play media while handling other tasks on your phone.
The app also acts as a remote, so you can play streaming content or change settings. Like the YouTube Pair feature, however, you’re not actually streaming content from the iPhone to the Roku, but instead command the device’s built in streaming apps via your phone.
Streaming content from your iPhone to a bigger screen, as you can see, depends on what you want to do. There’s really only one way to directly play streaming media on a television, and that’s via the adapter cable. But there are many ways to view photos, listen to music, or command apps on other devices via your iPhone.
How do you send video from your phone to your TV, or do you even bother to do so? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: Nicole Henning/Flickr