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How to Bring Smartphone Videos and Photos to Life on Your Big-Screen TV

A step-by-step guide for communicating among devices

spinner image Transfer video from phone to TV screen.
Dmitrii Melnikov / Alamy Stock Photo

With so much great video content on the web these days — YouTube and inspiring TED Talks, for example — wouldn’t it be great to view it all on your big-screen television when you’re at home?

Rather than squinting to watch videos on the small displays of a laptop, smartphone or tablet, you can sit back, maybe with family or friends, and enjoy content on a significantly bigger, high-resolution screen, such as a 4K or 8K TV. The “K” designation for those TVs means “kilo,” the metric prefix for 1,000. A 4K TV has 3,840 horizontal pixels and 2,160 vertical pixels for about 8.3 million pixels total. An 8K TV has the highest resolution available today, 7,680 horizontal and 4,320 vertical pixels, more than 33 million total.

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A bigger, better way to watch

Whether you want to have an AARP’s Movies for Grownups movie night, chat with family and friends while you stream shows together through the free Teleparty appwatch YouTube videos or see everyone more clearly during a Zoom video chat, transferring web content from your Smartphone or computer to the big screen is fairly easy.

The process entails wirelessly connecting to your TV, called casting. You also can use a cable to physically hook the device and your TV together or log into a service through a smart TV. You’ll be pleased to know that these steps also work for home movies and photos you’ve captured on your phone or tablet.

Oftentimes, once we’ve captured photos and videos with our smartphones, we forget about them. They simply take up space in the cloud or on your phone. But what if you could transfer and preserve these memories to the big screen and relive them over and over again?

Casting sends photos, video without cables

One way to transfer web and social media content — or photos and videos stored on your phone — to your TV is to wirelessly “cast” them from another device.

Many smart TVs let you transmit videos from your laptop, smartphone or tablet. The setup depends on your type of TV, but the device you want to cast from must be on the same Wi-Fi network as your smart TV or other device that you’re casting to.

From YouTube

1. Open the YouTube app on your mobile device or computer and find the video you want to watch.

2. Tap the video to play it. You don’t need to expand it to full screen on your device.

3. Look for a small icon in the top right corner of your screen that resembles a TV screen with a Wi-Fi logo in the lower left corner. Click on it.

4. Select the TV to play the video. Your phone or tablet may display Searching for devices, so once it finds a compatible TV, select it.

After a second or two, the video should start playing on your TV screen.

From other players

Depending on your TV, this technology may be called Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) or Miracast. Your TV also may be equipped with a streaming player, such as Apple AirPlay or AirPlay2, Google Chromecast, or Roku.

The process is similar for all types of streaming players: Choose a video on your mobile device and tap the Share icon for it to appear on your TV.

Using Apple AirPlay

Apple iPhone and iPad users have two options for sharing content to their AirPlay 2-compatible TV or Apple TV box: streaming video and photos or mirroring the entire iPhone or iPad on the screen.

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Mirroring is a good option for gaming on a large display, reading messages and viewing social media content. Not all smart TVs are compatible with AirPlay 2, but Apple updates its information.

1. Tap the video you want to stream or the photo you want to cast to your TV.

2. Select the AirPlay icon, which looks like a rectangle with a triangle entering through the bottom. In some apps, you might need to tap a different button first, such as the Share icon, which looks like a square with an arrow coming through the top, then tap the AirPlay icon.

3. Choose your Apple TV or AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV from the list that displays.

Mirroring your Apple device

1. Open the Control Center by swiping down from the upper right corner of the screen on your iPhone X or later or iPad using iPadOS 13 or later. On an iPhone 8 or earlier or iOS 11 or earlier, swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

2. Tap the Screen Mirroring icon, which looks like a double rectangle stacked diagonally.

3. Select your Apple TV, AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV or Macintosh computer from the list.

4. Enter the passcode on your iOS or iPadOS device if an AirPlay passcode appears on your TV screen or Mac.

An HDMI cable also lets you connect

Another way to watch web videos on your big-screen TV is to manually connect a cable between your laptop and TV.

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Smart TVs generally have more than one HDMI input on the back or side of the TV, so you shouldn’t have to unplug your cable TV box, which may occupy one slot if you haven’t cut the cord on cable. HDMI cables can handle both audio and video.

1. Purchase an HDMI cable from a dollar store, order one online or borrow one from a family member if you don’t have one.

spinner image HDMI Connector
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2. Plug one end of the HDMI cable into your laptop’s HDMI output jack. If it doesn’t have one, you may need to purchase a dongle that goes from a USB-C connection if you have a Windows PC or Thunderbolt for a Mac to an HDMI port, also called a hub.

3. Plug the other end of the cable into your television’s HDMI port. You may need to move your computer closer to the TV. Make sure that your PC or Mac is plugged in so you won’t run out of battery power while you’re in the middle of a movie.

4. Use your TV remote to change the Source or Input to the one designated for your computer, such as HDMI 2. Now you’ll see what’s on your laptop screen.

5. Use your computer mouse or trackpad to click Play on the video. It will begin to play on your TV.

If you’re using your television to view a group better, such as during a Zoom call, keep in mind that others will need to see you through your laptop camera. Position your laptop in front of you with the camera facing you.

Many smart TVs make casting easier

A smart TV connects to the internet to access content, so you can easily download apps you need from the app store for your brand of television. New smart TVs have some apps preinstalled.

For example, to see Facebook videos:

1. Download the Facebook app at your TV app store. Google "how to get to app store on [your TV brand] "because TV manufacturers vary on the steps. If you have a new TV, you may find the app already installed.

2. Open the Facebook app.

3. Sign in to your account. Once you’ve logged into the app, you can stream videos to your TV whenever you please. The process is similar for YouTube or other video apps as well.

This story, originally published April 20, 2020, has been updated with new developments.

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