How to use your TV with your phone or tablet

Apple AirPlay

Playing media on your TV from your smartphone or tablet is a handy home tech feature. Perhaps you want to show vacation photos or play the latest YouTube hit for your friends so all can see at the same time. Or maybe you just want to watch your stuff on a bigger screen. There are two families to stream media: AirPlay and DLNA.

Apple created AirPlay for their products. You can stream content from Apple iPhones, iPads and Macs to an Apple TV. In iOS, you can use AirPlay by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone or iPad screen to access its Control Center. On newer Macs, you access AirPlay from the menu bar at the top. You can use your device for streaming (playing from your iPad or iPhone) or mirroring (mirror its screen to the TV). AirPlay is extremely simple to use, but relies on a solid home Wi-Fi network to ensure audio and video play smoothly. If you are able to connect a network cable to your AppleTV, that would be best, as iPads and iPhone can only connect using Wi-Fi.

Samsung Instal-Play

If you’re an Android user, you too can stream media, but its usually a bit more involved. There are many versions of Android and compatible TV devices including PS3 and Xbox. They make use of the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) protocol. Streaming from your Android device to a TV can range from simple to beyond frustrating depending on your device and TV. For example if you have a premium Samsung phone and a compatible Samsung TV, you’ll have a fairly seamless experience using their apps. As there is a nearly endless array of Android devices and compatible TV devices, there are too many variants to cover here. Some Blackberry and Windows devices also support DLNA, so you may have compatibility with those devices as well. If you have a hodgepodge of devices, game consoles and TVs, you’ll have to get cozy with Google to figure out the magic steps to get them to play nicely together. As with AirPlay, a good experience with DLNA requires a solid Wi-Fi network.

Although Apple’s AirPlay is mainly for Apple devices, there are apps like Twonky Beam that allow you to use an Android device with an Apple TV. The experience isn’t quite as seamless and flexible, but you should be able to get by. Some audio brands are AirPlay compatible (check out fav #4), but Apple may allow them to include video streaming in the future.

People often have strong opinions that Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android is better, but in general its usually best to stick with one or the other unless you’re tech savvy. Regardless of your tech device religion, get the most out of it including streaming to other screens.