Video from Phone to TV
We basically have 2 methods available to achieve video playback from your phone on your TV.
Using a cable ….
The most obvious one is simply get a cable that allows your phone to be connected to your TV.
One of the things that bothers me the most about the cable method, besides having to have a weird cable running from your phone to your TV, is that not all phones work the same way when it comes getting video-out to work. Finding the right cable is your first problem, but having your apps actually send a video-out signal appears challenging as well.
Some iOS version for example support only output by particular apps, some Android phones have a very specific HDMI connector, other Android devices only support video-out for the apps provided by the manufacturer, and the list goes on …
Note : If you’d like to know more about some of the normal video connectors, see the overview in the “How to Connect your PC to your TV” article.
Motorola Droid connected to the TV via a micro HDMI cable
An old Motorola Droid connected to an Asus HDMI monitor.
The playback to HDMI however, only works with the media player that came with the phone. A “HDMI” button in the upper left corner allows you to switch to HDMI output and turns your phone-screen to a control panel. Media applications like XBMC on Android unfortunately do not support the output through HDMI on this particular Motorola model.
I have to admit though that in this example Video playback, using HDMI, is surprisingly smooth and audio is supported properly …
iOS – iPhone, iPad, iPhone
With iOS devices, like iPod, iPad and iPhone, two connectors are currently common: The old 30-pin connector and the new Lightning connector.
Video output can be accomplished through these connectors, but not every iOS version and/or App supports video output.
Apple: 30-pin (left) versus Lightning (right) connectors
Old 30-pin Connector
Older iOS devices have the option, with the proper dock, to do this for Composite, S-Video, Component Video or even HDMI connections on your TV. Be warned though that such a cable might ot work with your device or the app you have in mind.
Newer iOS devices with a Lightning connector, can also connect through HDMI with a variation of Lightning to HDMI cables and docks. Here too, the same story as with the old cables: they might work for your device or App.
Certain Android devices have HDMI connectivity build in. A few Android phones, for example the Motorola model illustrated earlier, have a micro HDMI connector or have phone specific cables available for video out.
Others have the upcoming standard for HDMI output. This upcoming standard, called MHL (Mobile High-definition Link), has extra pins “hidden” in the micro USB port of the phone.
MHL to HDMI Adapter
So far I have seen nothing but trouble with these cables though, so your milage may vary. I have a device here with a so called 5-pin MHL (standard) connector which will not work with the 11-pin variant (Samsung). Once you’ve grabbed a microscope to identify the differences, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that at this time (2013) the MHL cables are not something you can count on, let alone find the exact right cable and enable HDMI output.
Wireless is the way to go …
This, if you have the right equipment, is probably the coolest and easiest way to play your cellphone or tablet video’s on your TV.
DRM … a Failure again …
Video files protected with DRM, for example purchased movies, often do not work with this type of setup.
The main reason for this is that the device that is playing the video file, does not have the proper software and/or keys to decrypt the file.
To play these files, you’ll need to remove the DRM protection of the file.
I really prefer this method. After playing with all sorts of adapter cables and apps, I’d simply had it. The wireless method on the other hand worked right away for both Android and Apple devices …
With both methods we will mention below, the principle is based on “sharing” a video file on your Cellphone or Tablet with your TV or Media Playback device.
Think of it as your phone offering files on your network, like you might have seen with your Windows computer that shares files over the network. The device that is accessing your phone or tablet is the device that handles the actual playback. So basically the TV (for example) copies the file from your phone to itself, and then plays the copied file by itself.
This in contrast to using a cable, where your Cellphone or Tablet is the device that handles the actual playback and pushes a video signal to your TV.
Note : The device (TV) that plays the file is not really first copying the entire file, it’s rather playing the file while it’s “copying” (ie. streaming).
We will discuss two common methods:
After explaining these 2 methods, we will show you how to use an app called iMediaShare that supports both methods for Android and iOS.
Note : Another alternative to DLNA or AirPlay would be Miracast, which is supposed to be much easier in use, however Miracast only works via WiFi-Direct and will not work through your home network.
DLNA – for Android and Apple …
What is DLNA?
DLNA is a industry-wide standard for sharing data over a network, mostly geared towards streaming media like videos, photos and music.
It is an open standard and a consortium of manufacturers have been working on it since 2003, with Sony being one of the main players.
In a DLNA setup, we will see a DLNA Server, which provides content, and one or more DLNA Clients which play digital content stored on a DLNA server.
DLNA Clients and Servers
A DLNA server can for example run on your computer, or even a NAS (Network Attached Storage), with software that can be downloaded for free (Twonky Server or PS3 Media Server). In our example here, your cellphone or tablet will function as a DLNA Server.
When it comes to a DLNA client, you’ll typically will be looking at a device capable of content playback.
The client you will be using obviously depends on what you have available, and you might be surprised what you already have in your home …
Some examples of DLNA Clients:
- Quite a few SmartTVs
- Media Players like Roku or your XBMC box
- Certain Blu-Ray players
- Game consoles like PlayStation 3 and the XBox 360
- Dedicated DLNA dongles, that plugin the HDMI port of your TV
Note : Obviously AppleTV does not support DLNA.
Note : The App we will be using later on, will identify the DLNA Push-to-Play automatically.
Compatibility and Playback
When we want to watch a movie for example, we can initiate video playback in two ways, depending on the capabilities of your DLNA server and client of course.
The classical method is to have the client pull the desired content from the server.
This means that form your playback device, the DLNA client, you select what movie from the DLNA server you’d like to watch.
More advanced devices have the option to have the server actually push the content to the DLNA client. Which is called Push-to-Play, a method we will prefer in our Cellphone setup. In such a case you select the movie you’d like to see on your cellphone, the DLNA server, which then is being pushed to the playback device (DLNA client).
Keep in mind:
- Not every DLNA device is necessarily DLNA certified, although they might work just fine.
- Not all DLNA devices supports Push-to-Play.
- For some devices, the DLNA capability is not even mentioned in the manual.
My M-series Vizio TV has nothing mentioned in the manual about DLNA support, it does not appear in the list of certified DLNA devices, and it does not support Push-to-Play. It does however allow you to access DLNA servers without a problem …
Supported File Formats
During the tests I have done with several devices, I’ve noticed that video files in MP4 format, M4A or MP3 music and JPEG pictures are the most commonly supported formats. I did find that most AVI files will worked well, but none of the MKV files will work (you’ll need to convert those with for example HandBrake for Windows, MacOS X, or Linux where the source will be the MKV file and not a DVD of course).
According to the DLNA specs, the following file formats should be supported:
DLNA Supported Formats
||Common file extensions
|Photos / Pictures
||JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG
|Music / Audio
||MP3, WMA, M4A, AMR
|Movies / Video
||MPG, MP2, MP4, WMV
AirPlay – Apple only …?
Of course Apple will do anything to remain non-compliant with the rest of the world and uses their own method: AirPlay.
AirPlay could be seen as the successor or AirTunes, which allowed streaming audio only, and is not DLNA compatible.
Apple however has licensed their proprietary protocol to third parties.
Even though AirPlay is less widely available than DLNA, you might be able to find another device that actually supports AirPlay.
AirPlay Clients and Servers
AirPlay works in a similar way as DLNA, and was initially geared towards Apple hardware like iPhone, iPod, iPad and AppleTV. Unlike DLNA, AirPlay always supports Push-to-Play, so playback pushed by the “server” will work with any AirPlay compatible devices that allows playback like another iTunes or AppleTV … this excludes devices like your iPhone or iPad.
Most Apple devices are capable to be a AirPlay Server – ie. the device providing the content. This includes your iPhone, iPad and even iTunes on your computer.
When it comes to clients, you’ll be a little bit more limited. Typically clients, the device that do the actual playback, are your computer (iTunes) and an AppleTV.
Some non-Apple devices seem to support being an AirPlay client as well, although they often only support Audio. XBMC for example does support AirPlay, be it somewhat limited. Apple devices will only see XBMC (for now) as an Audio only device. The iMediaShare app, which we will discuss later, however does allow Audio and Video to an AirPlay device like XBMC and AppleTV.
iTunes, if needed, can be used as an AirPlay server as well. In the picture below, you’ll see the typically AirPlay icon/logo highlighted.
Using AirPlay in iTunes
File Format Support
For the use with AirPlay a simple rule can be followed. Anything that can be played with your default apps (so not 3rd party apps!) will be supported by AirPlay. The most common formats are MP4 for video, M4A for music, and JPEG or PNG for photos or pictures.
For video playback from your iPhone or iPad to your AppleTV, no extra apps need to be installed.
Note : Before starting playback make sure that the destination device, like an AppleTV, is up and running. If you fail to do this, your iPhone, iPad, or iTunes will not recognize it as such.
To start simply go to your “Videos” and start playback of your video.
Tap the AirPlay icon and select your destination device and you’ll see your TV screen change and play the movie or video.
Note : If you picked XBMC as a destination, then you’ll notice that it will only play the audio part.
AirPlay on your iPhone – Video PlayBack
You can also display the pictures and video recordings from your camera roll this way, where you’ll first have to tap the “Share” icon.
AirPlay – iPhone pictures – The Share button
For music, you’ll have to pull up the music controls, under which you’ll find the AirPlay icon as well.
AirPlay – Music from your iPhone
iMediaShare – The App that does it all …
My preferred app is iMediaShare, but this doesn’t mean that other apps are bad – I simply might not have tried them yet …
I can highly recommend iMediaShare, it’s not only easy and solid, it also supports DLNA Push-to-Play, Regular DLNA and AirPlay, so there is a pretty good chance that you’ll find a capable device in your home it works with.
If you only want to use a DLNA variant, then Samsung owners could probably try AllShare first if it’s preinstalled on your device. I have however received reports that AllShare isn’t always that good with larger (1080p) files.
Step 1 – Get the iMediaShare App
iMediaShare can be downloaded in a personal version at Google Play, here is the link: Google Play iMediaShare Personal.
There used to be a premium version, capable of HD video, but it has been replaced with a totally useless successor called FLIPPS.
You maybe be able to find an older installation file (APK) if you use Google.
I did find an older version, which you can download from Tweaking4All, but you’ll have to go to “Settings” and allow applications from unverified sources.
Keep in mind : it’s always better to get the latest version from the website of the developer or through Google Play.
IPHONE / IPAD
iMediaShare Personal also exists for iOS and can be found at the iMediaShare Personal iTunes page.
Apple Limitations …
The Apple version of iMediaShare comes with a significant limitation, set by Apple …
Apps are not allowed to share video files that are not located in your photo albums.
- You can use the Camera Connection Trick to transfer videos into your photo albums.
- Sync with iTunes after you’ve copied the movie in your “Pictures” folder and have set the photo sync options to the “Pictures” folder and have “Include Videos” checked.
Unfortunately, iTools is of no help here …
Step 2 – Go through the initiation step (first time only)
When you start iMediaShare for the first time however, you’ll have to go through a few initial steps – nothing big though.
Below the 6 screens you’ll have to go through. Before proceeding, you might want to turn on all TV’s, Game Consoles, and Media Players that you have, so you will get an idea of what devices in your home can be used for this purpose.
In the 4th screen (A) you’ll see a list of capable DLNA and Airplay devices found by iMediaShare. In our example list your see my AppleTV (AirPlay), XBMCLivingroom (twice: once for DLNA and once for AirPlay) and my Xbox 360 – all the devices I currently have available for wireless video playback from my cellphone or tablet.
Whatever device you pick here – you can change your selection later.
On the 5th screen (B) you might want to pay attention. My preference is to remove the checkmark behind all options except the “Personal” category.
The “Personal” category involves your videos, photo’s and pictures!
All other categories are online (Internet) content.
Personally I’m not a fan of having everything connected to Facebook and thank goodness you can click “Skip Login” so this will not be tied to your Facebook account.
iMediaShare – Initial walkthrough
Once you’ve gone through all these screens, you’ll never be bothered by them again …
Step 3 – Video Playback
If your DLNA device does not support Push-to-Play
Not all DLNA enabled devices allow or support the Push-to-Play option and therfor will not appear in iMediaShare …
I have noticed however that iMediaShare sets up a real DLNA server, so a TV that can handle regular DLNA will be able to see this “server” in your network and even allows you browse the movies, pictures and music on your cellphone or tablet. The downside is of course that you’ll need to browse on your TV to find the movie you’d like to watch.
Now that every thing is “set”, time to start playback.
Playback with iMediaShare is very simple …
Screen 1 is the first screen you’ll see after the blue start screen, or after completing step 2.
Here we select the source of our video, photos or music.
iMediaShare supports a lot of web resources and even your own media servers in your local network, but for our purpose, playback of media from our phone, we will have to look under the PERSONAL heading.
Screen 2 will show us what’s on our cellphone or tablet, and in the example below it only shows our SD-card (“external_sd” which might be named differently on your phone or tablet). Tab the video you like, or like I did: select the SD-card.
Screen 3 only shows for the SD card example where we can select a video file which will be opened right away.
Screen 4 gives us a few instructions just before playback starts, so we know how to control things;
– Tap: Start or Pause Playback
– Swipe Up/Down: Volume control
– Swipe Left/Right: Flip through videos
– Close button to stop the video
– Screens button to pick alternative media players or TV’s
Screen 5 is what you’ll see during playback, where the controls demonstrated in Screen 4 will work.
Screen 6 is where we can change Playback to a different device.
iMediaShare – Video Playback