Watching TV shows and movies on your mobile phone or tablet is perfectly fine for the daily commute, but if you get home and want to continue your video, you’re better off streaming it to your TV. Here’s how to throw a movie or show from your Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows or BlackBerry mobile device to your telly.
Alternatively, you might want to stream a game from your phone or tablet to your TV for a more immersive gaming experience, or show your personal pics and home movies to friends and family. The following methods will work for all of the above, streaming whatever you can see on your mobile phone or tablet to your TV.
Chromecast is one of the easiest and best ways to stream content from BBC iPlayer, Netflix, BT Sport, Wuaki.tv and other on-demand services on your TV.
While many smart TV platforms come with these services installed, Chromecast takes the pain of navigating warren-like menus out of the smart TV experience. You search for what you want to watch on your phone or tablet, find it, hit the TV icon and it’s casted to the big screen.
It’s easy to set up – you just plug the Chromecast into a spare HDMI port on your TV, install the Chromecast app on your phone and follow the on-screen instructions. Check out our new Chromecast review for more details.
Thanks to a recent update, a screen mirroring function for Android phones lets you easily view photos stored on your phone.
You can also use this to stream content from apps like ITV Player that aren’t officially supported by Chromecast. This method doesn’t always work though, with some services – most notably All 4 – still locked out at the time of writing.
Unfortunately, most of the games you can play with Chromecast right now aren’t that great. That said, there’s a ton of other fun things you can do with Chromecast that we’ve covered in our tips and tricks articles.
AirPlay and Apple TV
If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad and an HDTV, chances are you already know about AirPlay.
AirPlay is easy to set up and lets you stream movies, play music and games from your iPhone or iPad on your big TV screen. You’ll need to have an Apple TV device plugged in to your TV set and connected to your home WiFi network.
Once this is set up, you then connect your iPhone or iPad connected to your home WiFi network. An AirPlay icon then pops up in certain apps like Photos, Videos, Music or Safari, letting you stream what you want to your TV.
AirPlay Mirroring is available on the iPhone 4S and above, and the iPad 2 and later models, letting you surf the web, check email, and play games on your TV screen.
A handful of games like Infinity Blade III and Metal Storm: Wingman(pictured) have been adapted specifically for AirPlay Mirroring, turning your iPhone 4S and iPad 2 into advanced second screen controllers.
Apple TV of course also acts as a video rental service, giving you access to the many titles available to rent and buy from iTunes. Services like Netflix, Now TV, Crunchyroll, YouTube and Vimeo are also available on Apple TV.
Though DLNA isn’t the most reliable of wireless streaming protocols, Twonky seems to have got it working fine with its Twonky Beam app.
We’ve waxed lyrical about Twonky Beam before; it’s a service that lets you search the web for video on your iOS or Android device and then sling it to your TV.
As well as working with a number of Samsung Smart TV’s (and one Sony one – the Bravia LCD TV KDL-32E5520), Twonky Beam and Twonky Browser also work with ZyXEL’s DMA-1000 media player and a number of music players such as the Sonos S5 and Roku SoundBridge M1001 (click here for a full list).
Twonky Beam is free to download for iPhone and iPad (iOS 4.0 or later) and Android devices (2.2 Froyo or later).
YouTube Leanback is a really great lo-fi solution that’s ideally suited to groups of friends who want to sit around one TV screen and play YouTube videos.
Like Chromecast, Leanback does away with the pain of having to negotiate fiddly smart TV menus when all you want to do is watch YouTube videos on your big screen.
Leanback is a way of connecting your phone to your smart TV or games console without the need for any extra hardware. On your TV’s web browser, go to youtube.com/leanback. Then open up your phone’s browser and head over to youtube.com/pair. Enter the nine digit code on your TV’s screen, wait a couple of seconds and you’re done.
Search for videos on your phone as you normally would and hit the ‘Add to TV Queue’ option to start building a video playlist.
For more information, read our guide to YouTube Leanback.
Miracast on Android, Windows and BlackBerry 10
If you’ve got an Android phone that was made in the past four years, chances are it’s running 4.2 Jelly Bean or higher, which means you should be able to stream content on your TV using Miracast.
Miracast might be called something like ‘Wireless Display’. HTC calls this ‘Media Output’, Samsung calls it ‘AllShare Cast’ and LG calls it ‘SmartShare’. Helpful, eh?Windows 8.1 laptops and select BlackBerry 10 phones – Z30, Q5 and Q10 – can also make use of Miracast.
Miracast is a kind of wireless version of HDMI that allows you to replicate whatever’s on your phone or tablet’s screen on your TV’s display, a process known as ‘mirroring’.
To use Miracast, your TV will need to have a Miracast receiver built in. Smart TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are Miracast compatible. If your TV isn’t Miracast compatible, then you can pick up a Miracast dongle for about £15-£20 online.
On your phone, Miracast might be called something like ‘Wireless Display’. HTC calls this ‘Media Output’ on its phones, Samsung occasionally calls it ‘AllShare Cast’ and LG calls it ‘SmartShare’. Windows 8.1 devices have a ‘Project’ setting which can be found in the Devices menu. BlackBerry, rather sensibly, calls it ‘Miracast’.
Turn this feature on and your device should automatically start searching for nearby Miracast connections. A quirk of Miracast is that as its a perfect mirror of your phone or tablet’s screen, you’ll need to make sure your screen doesn’t power off as your TV screen will fade to black too. Make sure you’ve got plenty of battery life left before embarking on a marathon Archer session on Netflix.
If you’re hunkering down for the evening, you might also want to turn call barring on as well. There’s nothing worse than having the pivotal scene of a movie ruined by an incoming call.
A problem with Miracast is that it’s not an open standard. Before we mentioned that Sony, Samsung and LG all had their own special names for Miracast. Well, guess what – an HTC phone might not be able to stream content to a Sony smart TV and a Samsung tablet might not work with a Panasonic smart TV – even though on paper they’re all Miracast compatible.
If you want to make use of Miracast, it’s worth checking out if your phone is actually compatible with your TV. You should also make sure your TV’s firmware is up to date. If your TV and phone aren’t compatible, try looking for a Miracast dongle that is compatible with your phone or tablet.
Buying a Miracast dongle is a workaround, but perhaps one you shouldn’t have to pay for. Blame manufacturers for building fences around what should arguably be an open standard.
HTC Media Link
HTC’s Media Link HD (£30) is a little dongle-sized device which you plug in to the HDMI port of your TV set. From there is acts as a bridge from your HTC phone to your TV set. It doesn’t matter if your TV is set up for DLNA or any kind of wireless streaming – all you need is a spare HDMI slot.
Working with HTC’s phones from the flagship One phones to higher-end mid-rangers like the Desire 601 and Desire 610, no apps need to be installed for the Media Link HD to work. You simply plug it into your TV and a connection is automatically established. A three-finger gesture on the screen activates the connection; see the video below and read our guide here.
The Media Link HD lets you stream movies, video clips (AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MKV, H.264 BP/MP/HP) music (MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC) and pictures (JPG) to your TV while letting you continue to use the phone as normal. This is useful as it means you can start streaming a movie and if your phone rings, you can answer it and the film will continue playing.
Alternatively there’s a mirror mode, meaning you can play games, check email and surf the web on your TV from your HTC phone.
MHL vs Slimport – just plug your phone in
A more direct but less elegant solution is to plug your phone into a spare HDMI port on your TV.
The majority of phones with micro USB ports these days also feature MHL – Mobile High Definition Link. This means with the right cable – like this one – and adapter – like this one – you can plug your phone or tablet into a spare HDMI port on your TV.
Everything you do on your phone will be mirrored on the TV right away. No pairing, no syncing, no apps are required to be installed. Simple. Easy. Of course, the drawback is that you’ve got to have meters of cable spooling across your living room floor. If you can live with that, then getting an micro USB to HDMI cable might be your best bet.
Most MHL adapters will also require a power source, either mains or your phone’s battery. If you’re sat in your living room, chances are mains power will be close to hand. Given that the battery life of most Android phones is pretty terrible, mains is preferred.
While MHL is present on the majority of phones out there, a new technology called Slimport is making waves. Slimport’s biggest advantage over MHL is that it lets you connect your phone to monitors with DisplayPort, VGA and DVIA connections as well as HDMI. It also doesn’t draw power from your phone or tablet in order to work.
You’ll need to buy a separate Slimport adapter which you plug into your phone. You then run an HDMI or DisplayPort cable to your TV or monitor. As Slimport is a newer technology, it’s not present in every device.
If you’ve got an iOS device (iPhone or iPad), you can’t directly connect your phone or tablet to your TV without first purchasing a separate adapter.
iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S’s, first to third gen iPads and fourth generation iPod Touches can connect to TV sets with either the Apple Digital AV Adapter (HDMI) or the Apple VGA Adapter. Full screen mirroring is only supported on the iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPad 3.
If you’ve got an iPhone 5, 5C or 5S and any of the more recent iPads (including the iPad Minis) you’ll need to get a Lightning Digital AV Adapter (HDMI) or the Lightning to VGA Adapters depending on what sort of TV you’re connecting to.