Watching movies and shows on your phone is all well and good—and would seem fantastically futuristic to anyone from the 1990s—but sometimes you need to see everything much, much bigger. If you need to get videos, photos or audio up on your TV screen from your phone, these are the best ways to go about it.
Most of the time, this is going to involve plugging an extra gadget into the back of your television set, such as an Apple TV 4K box or a streaming stick from Roku. However, modern TVs are coming with more and more of the necessary functionality (like support for AirPlay or the Chromecast standard) built right in.
If you own an iPhone
It’s often the case that the best way to expand the capabilities of your Apple hardware is to...buy more Apple hardware. It’s true with the iPhone too: For a seamless, versatile, stress-free experience in getting content from your iPhone up on your television screen, you might need to get yourself an Apple TV 4K box.
When plugged into your TV, powered on, and connected to the same wifi network as your iPhone, the Apple TV 4K will appear as a target destination whenever you tap the AirPlay button in an audio or video app (that’s the arrow pointing up into the rectangle). In some apps, the AirPlay button is on the Share menu (the arrow breaking up out of a square).
You can also mirror what’s on your iPhone screen to an Apple TV 4K through the magic of AirPlay. Drag down from the top right on iOS to open the Control Center, then tap the Screen Mirroring button (that’s two rectangles next to each other). Choose your Apple TV 4K from the list to establish the connection.
In recent years, Apple has allowed TV manufacturers to build AirPlay right into their sets, so you don’t necessarily need an Apple TV 4K box any more. The same connection method applies: The TV needs to be on the same wifi network as the iPhone, and it’ll show up whenever you hit the AirPlay or Screen Mirroring buttons. To see a list of televisions with AirPlay support, click here.
The most recent Roku devices support AirPlay as well, so you can use them in the same way—if your TV doesn’t have the functionality, plug in a Roku instead. As for Google’s Chromecast devices, there’s no built-in casting support from iOS or Apple’s own apps, but most third-party apps on the iPhone (including YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify) will display a cast button: Tap on this to see Chromecasts (and Chromecast-enabled TVs) connected to the same wifi network, and to start beaming audio or video across them.
A couple of solid third-party apps can help you out in your endeavors, too. Fire TV Stick Screen Mirroring is $5 a month after a trial period, and does exactly what its name suggests, letting you mirror your iPhone screen or cast photos and videos to an Amazon dongle. Then there’s Replica, $30 a year with a free trial, which lets you mirror your iPhone screen on devices (like Chromecasts) that might only support audio and video streaming out of the box.
If you own an Android phone
Figuring out the best way to go with Android is always more complicated, because there are of course variations between manufacturers and versions of Android. The Chromecast standard is supported just about everywhere, though, and this is one of the easiest ways to get content from your phone up on a TV screen.
Plug a Chromecast device into the back of your TV, make sure your Android phone is on the same wifi network, and the device will appear when you tap the cast button (it looks like a rectangle with a little wifi wave in the corner, if you’re not familiar with it). Most Android apps that can play audio or video will display this button somewhere.
You can also use a Chromecast to mirror whatever’s on your Android screen to your television display. You need to have Google Home for Android installed, which you presumably have after setting up a Chromecast: Find and select the Chromecast from the main screen in the Home app, then choose Cast my screen.
If you don’t have access to a Chromecast, everything is a little more difficult. Some Android devices support screen mirroring to Roku sticks, so that’s one option, but it varies by manufacturer and is often called something different from handset to handset. It’s not available on Google Pixel phones, for example, but it is available on Samsung Galaxy handsets, where it’s called Smart View.
It’s a similar story with the Amazon Fire TV sticks and boxes: Press and hold the home button on the Fire TV remote for a few seconds, then choose Mirroring from the screen that appears. Once you’ve configured this, you can go into Settings on your Android device and choose Connected devices to see the Amazon device, if mirroring is supported—again the actual name of the feature will vary depending on the phone.
You may find some use for AllCast, an Android app that costs $5 if you want to unlock all of its features. It lets you beam audio, video and images over from your Android phone to a wide range of devices that might be plugged into your television set, including the Apple TV 4K, Roku dongles, and Amazon Fire TV gadgets.