What is Screen Mirroring for the iPhone and iPad?

See your device screen on your TV's bigger screen

An iPad connected to a television set.
Rasulovs/iStock

Who needs casting when you have Screen Mirroring (also called Display Mirroring)? Many apps, especially streaming apps like Netflix, support the video out functionality of the iPhone and iPad. This is different from Screen Mirroring because it allows the app to send video in 1080p, so it comes across in HD quality. Screen Mirroring is a feature for apps that don't support video out and does exactly what its name implies: it mirrors the device's display.

This means you can play games, browse the web, update Facebook and do anything your iPhone or iPad or even iPod Touch can do using your HDTV as the display. And it works on almost any app.

How Does Screen Mirroring Work?

First, you will need to connect your iPhone or iPad to your HDTV. The two most popular ways of doing this are using Apple's Digital AV Adapter, which is basically an HDMI adapter for your iPhone/iPad, or using Apple TV to connect your device to your TV without the wires.

Which one is right for you? Apple TV has the benefit of providing many of the features you might want from hooking your iPhone or iPad up to your TV without actually using your device. For example, you can stream video from Hulu, Netflix and other sources using Apple TV. When you do need to use an app on your iPhone or iPad and copy the screen to your television, Apple TV will allow you to do it wirelessly.

On the downside, it is slightly more expensive.

What Is AirPlay? And What Does It Have to Do With Screen Mirroring?

AirPlay is Apple's method for sending audio and video wirelessly between devices. When you use Apple TV to copy your iPhone or iPad's screen to your television, you are using AirPlay. Don't worry, you don't need to do anything special to set up AirPlay.

It's a feature built inside iOS, so it already on your device and ready for you to use.

How Do I Use the Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple TV to Mirror the Display?

If you are using a Digital AV Adapter, screen mirroring should happen automatically. The only requirement is that your television's source be set to the same HDMI input that is being used by the Digital AV Adapter. The adapter accepts both an HDMI cable and a Lightning cable, which is the same cable that came with your iPhone or iPad. This allows you to keep the device plugged into a power source while connecting it to your TV.

If you are using an Apple TV, you will need to engage AirPlay on the iPhone or iPad to send your screen to your television set. You can do this by swiping up from the very bottom edge of the device to engage iOS's control center. AirPlay Mirroring is a button on this hidden control panel. When you tap it, you will be presented with a list of devices that support AirPlay. Apple TV will normally show up as "Apple TV" unless you have renamed it in the Apple TV's settings. (Renaming it can be a good idea if you have multiple Apple TV devices in your household. You can rename it by going to Settings, choosing AirPlay and choosing Apple TV Name.)

AirPlay works by sending the audio and video across your Wi-Fi network, so you will also need to have your iPhone or iPad connected to the same network as your Apple TV.

Why Doesn't Screen Mirroring Use the Entire Screen?

The screen on the iPhone and iPad use a different aspect ratio than an HDTV screen. This is similar to how an HDTV screen has a different aspect ratio than older television sets that run on "standard definition." And similar to a standard definition program showing up on an HDTV with black bars on either side of the picture, the iPhone and iPad's display is centered on the television's screen with the edges blacked out.

Apps that support the video out functionality will take up the entire screen. These apps usually display in full 1080p. Best of all, you do not need to do anything to switch between the modes. The device will do this on its own when it detects the app sending a video signal.

Can I Use Screen Mirroring to Play Games on my TV?

Absolutely! In fact, one of the best reasons to hook your iPhone or iPad up to your TV is to play games on the big screen. This is perfect for racing games that use the device as a steering wheel or board games where the whole family can join in the fun.

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