There are moments when the screen on an iPhone or iPad just isn't big enough – when you want to show off your photos to your friends, when you want to enjoy a movie to the fullest, or when you want to do a presentation in front of your colleagues, to give a few examples. At the same time, we're often near a bigger screen, such as the one on a TV or your computer's monitor. The solution? Hook up your iPhone or iPad to the larger display, of course!
Now, recent big news in tech is that Apple will be partnering up with big-name TV makers like Sony and Samsung to bring the AirPlay protocol to their new television sets
. This will make it extremely easy to stream content from your iPhone or iPad to the TV... if the latter is a 2018 or 2019 model. What if you want to connect to an older model or a computer monitor? Well, here are your options:
Method 1: Using Apple's official Lightning to HDMI adapter
First, the good news: iPhones and iPads have video output capabilities and mirroring support baked right into them. As for the bad news, taking advantage of these capabilities requires the purchase of additional hardware, such as the special Lightning to HDMI adapter from Apple. These retail for $49 apiece, which is quite a lot, especially when you take into account that an HDMI cable is not included. You have to either buy one separately or borrow the cable used with your receiver, set-top box, or video game console. Note that if you have the newest iPad Pro
, you will actually need a USB Type-C to HDMI adapter, since Apple's latest slates don't have the proprietary Lightning connector. These are also $49 apiece.
Using a Lightning to HDMI adapter to bring your media to the big screen has a number of downsides. First and foremost, the connection is wired instead of wireless. Sure, you're not consuming any of your Wi-Fi's bandwidth, but you'll likely miss the convenience of flipping through movies from the comfort of your couch. Furthermore, there are some complaints about resolution inconsistencies and softer images when using a cable to connect your iDevice to a bigger screen.
But if you choose to go with this method anyway, just go ahead and hook up your adapter to your device. Use an HDMI cable to connect your iPhone or iPad to your TV via the adapter. Make sure you've switched your TV to the input where your phone or tablet is connected. Within seconds, your device will automatically start sending video and audio data to your TV. Note that the image projected on your TV's screen will be slightly delayed. This lag is caused by the adapter converting the signal and is not a malfunction.
Apple's adapter also lets you connect your iPhone or iPad to a computer monitor with HDMI input. And if using HDMI is not possible for whatever reason, Apple is offering a Lightning to VGA adapter ($49) as well. It is compatible with the great majority of TVs and computer monitors, but it can't transmit any audio.
- The Lightning Digital AV Adapter is available on the Apple Store and at major retail stores.
Method 2: Using Apple TV and AirPlay
You've heard of the Apple TV, haven't you? It is Apple's $149 set-top box that lets you enjoy movies and music on your TV's big screen. Also, it comes with this cool feature called AirPlay. With its help, you can mirror the screen of your iPhone or iPad right onto your TV's display – wirelessly, over your home's Wi-Fi network.
Enabling AirPlay mirroring over Apple TV is a pretty straightforward process. You just have to make sure that both your iDevice and your Apple TV are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Once that's taken care of, an AirPlay icon will show up in your Control Center. Tap it, select the Apple TV and enable mirroring. Voilà! Your device's screen will now show up on your TV.
As the case is with the HDMI adapter, there might be a slight lag between what's shown on your phone or tablet and your TV, but it shouldn't be as prominent.
- Apple TV is available on the Apple Store and at major retail stores.
Method 3: Using Reflector or other software
So, let's say that you want to enjoy using your iPhone or iPad onto a larger screen, such as the one on your computer, but neither of the aforementioned methods suits your needs or budget. Well, there's a third option – download a 3rd party app, which helps your iPhone and your PC to communicate.
We found Reflector 3 to be great for our needs. In a nutshell, they turn a computer, be it a Mac or a PC, into an AirPlay receiver. The software works wirelessly, over Wi-Fi, or via USB, in case your computer does not have a Wi-Fi adapter. Overall, it is a pretty cool solution, only costs $15 for the full software, and does have a free trial version for up to 7 days after you install it.
Using it to play large video files over Wi-Fi is not ideal, due to some lag and frame skips, but it's a great way to share pictures from your latest trip on the big screen.
To use Reflector wirelessly, just get the app from its website and launch it on your computer. Note that a window may not pop up at all, but an icon in your app tray should definitely be present, indicating that Reflector is up and running. This is your cue to reach for your iPhone or iPad and enable AirPlay from Control Center. If the AirPlay button is not present, make sure that your computer and phone or tablet are onto the same wireless network. Using Reflector over USB is just as easy – just wire up your device to your computer and launch the app. Then you'll find the AirPlay button in your Control Center. Note that if your desktop computer is wired to the Wi-Fi router your iDevice connected to, Reflector should still work over the air.