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How to connect your phone to the TV

Here's how to get your TV and smartphone talking

man watching TV
Image Credit: iStock
(Image: © iStock)

Do you want to watch something you have on your smartphone on your TV? Then it’s time to learn how you can connect them up. Many of us have more smart devices in our homes than ever before, but we don’t know how to easily share content between. That’s because we assume that getting them talking will be a lot more hassle than it is.

However, connecting up your TV with your smartphone  or your tablet opens up a whole range of ways to stream and cast things from your mobile device to the big (or at least, bigger) screen of your TV. For example, you might want to show some old holiday photos to your friends and family, stream a YouTube clip or video file in higher resolution than your phone can handle, keep playing the Netflix show you were watching on your commute on the big screen instead or cast a workout tutorial to your TV so it’s easier to follow.

Nowadays, most new TVs are smart TVs. This means they come connected to the internet and pre-installed with apps like Netflix and YouTube. You can also even add one of the best streaming devices to your TV if there’s anything missing and you want to get your hands on most of the video or broadcasting content you could ever want to access.

But streaming from a phone or tablet brings you even more. If you want to view files, use an app that’s only available on mobile, or would rather keep a play session on your phone going – rather than get up the respective app on the TV – we’ve got the answers for you here. Read on for how to connect your phone to your TV, either over a wired connection or wirelessly.

Connect to the TV with HDMI

The most reliable way to get your phone hooked up to the TV is with an HDMI cable. Practically every TV will have an HDMI port of some sort, which is used to transfer both audio and video from the same source. (Some TVs are starting to get HDMI 2.1, but you only need the more common HDMI 2.0 standard if you’re not handling 8K content.)

Your phone won’t have an HDMI port, but there are handy adaptors that will bolt HDMI ports onto your phone’s USB Type-C, micro USB, or lightning ports.

Some Android tablets will have mini HDMI or micro HDMI ports, which can connect directly to HDMI over a single cable. Whatever port you’re hoping to connect from, make sure your cable is compatible with that connection.

HDMI cable

HDMI cable (Image Credit: iStock) (Image credit: iStock)

Connect to the TV with USB

Seems straightforward enough? Most smartphone charging cables end with a USB connector, to easily link up with laptops or power adaptors – but if your TV has a USB port, this is a simple way of getting your files onscreen.

You're technically transferring files to open on the TV, rather than transmitting your phone's display, though, so this is better for looking at your own photos and videos than anything else.

Like on a laptop or desktop PC, you should then be able to head to ‘Source’ on your smart TV platform, and select USB. You should get a prompt on your smartphone screen that enabled you to transfer files (rather than simply charge the device through your TV).

USB cable

USB Cable (Image Credit: Future Publishing) (Image credit: Future Publishing)

Connect to the TV with wireless casting (Android)

If you don’t want to fuss over any wires or cable, there’s always the option to use casting.

Casting is the process of wirelessly streaming content from your phone or tablet, by connecting to the same WiFi network as your television. Smartphone apps like AllCast will be able to cast direct to the TV for you, though most modern Android phones (Android 4.2 onwards) and Windows devices (Windows 8.1 onwards) will support the Miracast casting standard.

With Miracast, you simple head to your phone’s Display settings, check under Cast, and select Enable Wireless Display to check for nearby devices to cast to.

You can also use a streaming device like the Google Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick, which plug into your TV’s HDMI port, and can be connected to wirelessly by devices running Android 4.4.2 and above.

Google Chromecast and USB plug-in

Google Chromecast plugs straight into your TV's HDMI port (Image Credit: TechRadar)

Connect to the TV with AirPlay (iOS)

On Apple devices, you’ll be able to use AirPlay: Apple’s proprietary technology for casting audio and video wirelessly.

Naturally, AirPlay is designed to work between Apple devices only, but if you’re sending content from your iPhone or iPad to your Apple TV, AirPlay will have you sorted. If both devices are connected to the same WiFi network, they’ll automatically detect each other, and you’ll be able to select the AirPlay connection in your phone’s settings, the same way you would with Bluetooth for connecting to wireless headphones.