How to Connect an iPhone to TV: HDMI Adapter or Apple TV?

Updated on April 30, 2016

There are plenty of cool things you could do when you connect your iPhone to a TV. You could for example...

  • Take pictures with your iPhone and share them over your big HD-TV
  • Recorded your last family celebration on video and show it on a big screen
  • Send some cool tunes to your Hi-Fi System which is connected to your TV
  • Watch a movie from your iPhone on your TV

If this is what you are looking for read on! There are two possible ways to go:

  1. Wired using a Lightning HDMI adapter + HDMI cable
  2. Wireless by connect your iPhone to your HDTV over Wi-Fi - with Apple TV

Wich option is best for you depends on your use case. Travellers would rather use the adapter, home users should go for an Apple TV.

Lightning HDMI adapter - good for travelers

The Digital AV adapter is ultra portable and it delivers great, reliable video quality. However, be aware that Lightning is not capable of streaming a "raw" HDMI signal across the cable. The signal will be converted which might might lead to minor quality losses.

If you need the iPhone to TV connection on the go, especially for hotel rooms or presentations, the Digital AV HDMI adapter cable is definitely a good choice for you. It does not require any wi-fi set-up and will work easily with any TV or external display providing HDMI input connectors (which nowadays nearly every display has).

  1. Connect the adapter to your iPhone
  2. Connect the adapter to any TV using any HDMI cable
  3. Your iPhone will automatically detect the new screen and play photos, videos and other content on the big one.

However, if you are most likely to use the iPhone to TV set up at home, it is recommend to choose Apple TV. Is is much easier to control video playback on TV wirelessly than being restricted to a 10 feet HDMI cable.

Apple TV: Best option for connecting iPhone to TV at home

Apple TV (ca. $99) - connects your iPhone wirelessly to your HD-TV

In short: Airplay is the only thing that Android users are really jealous of Apple users. ;-)

Airplay is a technology that connects the entire Apple ecosystem over Wi-Fi, making it possible to stream high quality HD multimedia content from one device to another.

Every iDevice (iPhone, iPad, iPod) running at least iOS 4.3 can benefit from Airplay by streaming audio and video content wirelessly to a TV. Even modern Macbook models can do so.

Apple TV is the receiver for these Airplay signals and acts as the the bridge between your Airplay enabled iDevices and your regular TV set. Apple TV will be connected to your TV set through an HDMI cable and is hooked into an existing Wi-Fi network.

The initial set-up of an Apple TV roughly takes about 10 mins. After that your iPhone can be connected to your Apple TV in no time at all:

iPhone to Apple TV in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Make sure your iPhone is connected to the same wifi network as your Apple TV.

Step 2: Start playing any audio or video content on your iPhone. Swipe from the outside of your display from bottom to top to open the control center.

Step 3: Press "Airplay" and select 'Apple TV'. The video from your iPhone screen will nicely fade over to your TV screen.

Alternatively, you could use AirPlay Mirroring to show an exact 1:1 copy of your iPhone screen on your TV.

As mentioned before not only your iPhone but every iDevice and even computers can benefit from Apple TV Airplay. To get a full list of supported devices we recommend the Apple knowledge base article HT4437 "AirPlay requirements and capabilities"

Extra tip: Apple TV, thanks to its native apps, allows you to access your iTunes media content such as music, movies and TV shows directly from the Apple TV without even turning on your iPhone. If you are using Camera Roll you could also directly access those pictures and videos taken with your iPhone camera from your Apple TV as well.

Apps that will work nicely with Apple TV Airplay (Examples)

App
App Description
Angry Birds
Play the famous iPhone game on your big HD TV!
Photos
Watch photos from your iPhone on TV with the iOS Photos App
Fitness Class
Support Airplay so you can follow the fitness class instructions from your iPhone on TV!
Videos
Watch videos from your iPhone on your TV using the iOS video App
Netflix
Stream movies from the huge Netflix catalog and control everything with your iPhone
Squrl
The popular social, watch-later video service supports Airplay as well
Scrabble
One of the top classics and even far more fun to play multi-player on TV when you have people over.
These iOS Apps for iPhone support Airplay and can be streamed to your HDTV. Note: There are a lot more apps that support Airplay. Just visit the "Airplay Apps" section in the Appstore
Comparison: Lightning Adapter vs. Apple TV - Which one is worth its money?
Comparison: Lightning Adapter vs. Apple TV - Which one is worth its money?

Conclusion

When it comes to connecting an iPhone to TV the combination between Apple TV and Airplay offers much more than the Lightning HDMI adapter.

Apple TV has the following advantages:

  • Wireless Airplay is much more convenient than the HDMI cable solution
  • Apple TV is better value for money compared to the adapter
  • iPad, iPod and Macbook can also be connected to TV via Airplay
  • You can control video playback from your sofa.
  • Native Apple TV apps allow you to access your media library or watch movies without even turning on your iPhone.
  • More and more features are likely to be added to Apple TV

Of course there are some drawbacks to the Apple TV solutions as well:

  • Apple TV is more expensive than the Lightning HDMI adapter cable
  • Apple TV is not really portable, recommended for home use only
  • The video connection with the HDMI adapter cable is more stable than AirPlay, which requires a good high-speed wi-fi network to work properly.

So before buying a $49 Digital AV HDMI Adapter you should consider Apple TV as an alternative.

Except for some special cases, e.g. for travel or presentation purposes the Apple TV is the better option to connect your iPhone to TV compared to the Lightning Digital AV adapter solution.

 
Lightning HDMI Adapter
AirPlay with Apple TV
Output Quality
1080p HD
1080p HD
Initial Setup
approx. 2 minutes
approx. 10 minutes
Connection type
HDMI cable
Wi-Fi Network
Compatible devices
iPhone, iPad, iPad mini with Lightning connector*
iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod touch, Macbook, iMac, Mac mini **
Portable?
Yes
No
Price
$49
$99
*iPhone 5, iPad (4th generation) and iPad Mini. Older devices are equipped with a 30-pin connector and require the 30-pin Digital AV adapter ** AirPlay support for Macs released in mid 2011 or later. Visit http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4437 to get a

What's your favorite way of connecting your iPhone to TV?

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Comments

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    • profile image

      Lil BoB785 

      4 months ago

      Personally, I use ArkMC. It works perfect with no bugs, user-friendly, and it's compatible not only with my xBox but I can also share all my meadia from iphone to different devices (PC, TV, Mac, etc.)5/5

    • JessicaMartin123 profile image

      JessicaMartin123 

      10 months ago

      Hi,

      I have come across with a very technical device name Prijector : A Wireless Screen Mirroring Device. You can mirror your iPhone, iPad, Android, MAC, Windows, Tablet, PC screen to TV/Projector Wirelessly and it also integrated with various VC apps. - https://goo.gl/Zs16vD

    • profile image

      Chez 

      15 months ago

      This is not true. Our ipad does not mirror its screen onto our TV despite using Apple's own lightning connector. If you want to waste your money, by all means go out and buy Apple's connector but don't be surprised when it doesn't work.

    • profile image

      Adriangon 

      2 years ago

      I'm using Sunshine app and is free and no cable need. I use it with iphone and samsung smart tv and works really good!

      https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sunshine-transfer-...

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