What is Screen Mirroring?

Cast media from a smart device to a TV for better viewing

A picture of a movie being projected onto a screen.
Cast media to a screen. Getty images
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Screen Mirroring is a wireless technology that allows you to switch the media – or cast it – that’s playing on your smaller Android, Windows, or Apple device to a larger one instead for a better viewing experience.

That larger device is usually a television or media projector, often one you have set up in the media or living room of your home. Media you can cast includes but is not limited to personal photos and slideshows, music, videos, games, and movies, and can originate from the internet or an app like Netflix or YouTube.

Note: The protocol used to wirelessly mirror one screen to another is called Miracast, a word you might encounter as you learn more about the technology.

Connect Your Phone Or Other Device To A TV

To use screen mirroring, both devices have to meet a few minimum requirements. The phone or tablet you want to cast from must support screen mirroring and be able to send out data. The TV or projector you want to cast to must support screen mirroring and be able to capture and play that data.

To find out if your phone or tablet supports mirroring, refer to the documentation or perform an internet search. Note that you might also have to enable the Miracast or Screen Mirroring feature in Settings, so keep an eye out for that too.

With regard to the television, there are two broad technologies. You can either cast to a newer, smart TV or projector that has screen mirroring built in or you can purchase a media streaming device and connect it to an available HDMI port on an older TV.

Because the data arrives wirelessly and over your home network, that TV or the connected media stick will have to be configured to connect to that network as well.

Compatibility Issues When You Cast A Screen

Not all devices play well together. You can’t just cast any phone to any TV screen or somehow connect a phone to a TV using a magic app and force it to work.

Just because both devices support screen mirroring doesn’t mean anything either; the devices also have to be compatible with each other. This compatibility is often where problems arise.

As you might suspect, devices from the same manufacturer generally are compatible with each other. For instance, you can cast media from a newer Kindle Fire tablet to Amazon’s Fire TV easily. They’re both made by Amazon and were designed to work together. And, since Fire devices use the Android operating system, many Android-based phones and tablets are compatible as well.

Likewise, you can mirror media from your iPhone to an Apple TV. Both are made by Apple and are compatible with each other. The Apple TV works with iPads too. However, you can’t stream media from an Android or Windows device to an Apple TV.  It’s important you know that Apple doesn’t play very well with others when it comes to mirroring media.

Other devices like Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s media devices also have limitations, as do smart TVs in general, so if you’re in the market for a mirroring solution take into consideration what you’ll be streaming from before you purchase something to stream to!

Explore Mirroring Apps

When you play media on your smart phone or tablet, you use an app.

Perhaps you watch cable-based movies using SHO Anytime and live TV using Sling TV. Maybe you listen to music with Spotify or watch how-to videos with YouTube. These apps support screen mirroring and can be used when casting is an option.

Take a minute to test it out. Here’s how to explore your media apps in very general terms:

  1. Open an app on your device that lets you view media.
  2. Play any available media in that app.
  3. Tap the screen and tap the mirroring icon that appears there.
  4. If you have a device available to cast to (and it’s turned on and ready to use) to you’ll see it listed there.

The Screen Mirroring Experience

Once you’re watching your media via screen mirroring, you’ll use the controls on your phone or tablet to control it.

You can fast forward and rewind, pause, and restart, provided the app and the media allow for it. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to control the television itself though; keep the remote handy that works the volume!