Your phone can stream practically anything in today’s world, at least with the right app. There is a streaming service for everything, and to go with it you can have the data plan to watch your favorites everywhere. Yet sometimes you want something a little nicer than a 7” screen to watch your favorite shows or events on, and we understand that. There is so much out there that you can watch, and there are some things that deserve a bigger screen and the best sound you can provide.
Yet how can you stream from your phone? What apps and devices can you use, and which are best? What is the best way to cast your phone screen to something more party-sized? Perfect streaming might take a bit of work and research.
Fortunately, we’ve done much of the research for you, to determine the best options for today’s viewers that can work with a smartphone as a base. After all, it doesn’t make sense to carry a bulky laptop or even desktop with you wherever and whenever you want to stream, and putting your phone on the table to handle matters feels much more high-tech and minimalist. You will nearly always have your smartphone with you. It’s great for dates, family gatherings, and more.
Here are the ten best ways to get the most streaming power out of your smartphone:
Perhaps the simplest setup for streaming from your smartphone, a Chromecast will allow you to stream whatever is on your smartphone to your TV. It is as simple as that. You’ll need a TV with an HDMI port, but those come standard on any TV made in recent years (you have to go out of your way to find a non-smart TV). You’ll also want a home network, and enough space behind or to the side of your TV to plug it in.
Setting up a Chromecast is relatively easy. Once you have the device, you plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, you connect the USB power cable to the device, you set up the network connections if needed, and you also download the Google Home app. Then you select that HDMI input, follow the setup instructions, and you are good to go.
The price of a Chromecast is about $50 depending on your retailer, and setup should take you no longer than a half-hour at maximum. After that, you’ll be able to enjoy a simple yet effective streaming setup that should work for most families. And while this is something you could technically bring with you on the go, it’s probably best left where it is for when you want it.
Alternatively, you could look into Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, which is Amazon’s own device that is comparable to Chromecast or other streaming sticks and dongles. Setting it up is similarly easy, involving plugging the stick into a USB port and connecting the USB power cable. You will then need to set up or sign in to some accounts and get make sure the connections are strong, so set aside a little bit of time for this. After this, though, you will be able to cast from your phone to the Fire TV Stick with a bit of effort (it isn’t as simple as Chromecast or a more dedicated dongle).
Yet the Fire TV Stick also has its own set of apps that make it easier to use, making it so that you might not need to use your smartphone at all to stream. And with Alexa Support, options for free and live TV, and a price point of about $40, it has a lot to offer some households. If you use Amazon Prime Video a lot, it can be a nice choice. The stick can likely handle all the streaming for you, if not be too related to your smartphone. But know that if getting the picture from your smartphone is your top priority, it can do the job.
Naturally, Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick are not the only devices on the market that allow you to stream from your phone. They are simply the most popular. You can also look at other options from some of the major tech companies, and others still from lesser-known companies and manufacturers.
One of the standouts is the Roku Streaming Stick, which has been something of a mainstay in the industry for years now, and is a great choice if you want something basic but still like your streaming services.
There is also the Apple TV 4K, which if you’re just looking for something to cast your phone picture to is not the way to go with a price tag of about $180 as of this writing, but you will get a whole bunch of other features and it could be a fine purchase if you’re looking for an all-around entertainment and streaming center.
Getting them to work will depend on the stick, your TV, and a few other settings. Getting them to work on casting what is on your smartphone might depend on a few other additional factors on top of what we noted. It might require an extra app or something else mentioned below. Just also note that not all of them are made equally, and the quality of your streaming setup can suffer if you are not using a good product. You get what you pay for, and a good device is a worthwhile investment to make in your home entertainment.
Another option that you have is Miracast, which is an app dedicated to the casting of your screen over WiFi on Android devices, although it could be considered more of a default feature depending on how you look at it. It’s marketed as being much like HDMI over WiFi and functions are not all that different. What is handy is that it can work well with phones.
Miracast is usually built into Android devices using version 4.2 and higher, though there might be some exceptions. It is easy to set up and use on a whim, so long as you have the right device for it.
If you have an Apple device, then you will want to use the AirPlay feature on your iPhone to cast to your TV or device of choice. You will need to have a TV or device that is compatible with AirPlay or Airplay-2, but this is common enough on modern sets. There also might be different setup processes with Apple devices and some streaming sticks, but these are usually well-outlined, and you can find the information online. It’s a simple streaming setup, but simplicity is often the reason for a feature’s greatness.
If you get a streaming stick, you may use one of these two options to give yourself screencast functionality. Just note that while these apps can be great, they might not have the full functionality and streaming features noted in the other entries here. You might just get mirroring, and not the adjustments you’d like. But given how cheap (free) it is and how universal it is, trying it out can be the best option to learn more.
There are plenty of apps that can help you stream from your smartphone to your TV, some of which we’ve already mentioned, but here we are talking about the actual streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and others. Taking a page from the book of the tech giants and smartphone innovations from previous years, they implemented casting features directly into their apps, perhaps for optimization and certainly for convenience. After all, it’s no good if you leave the app, where you could be distracted, to cast.
As expected, they are easy to use. When using any app and your SmartTV in conjunction, always make sure they are connected to the same WiFi network, and that you select the right devices and networks when prompted. There isn’t much else to remember.
Note that there might be some differences depending on the exact devices you are using. If you are using a streaming stick, gaming console, or home entertainment system to stream from your phone, then you need to make sure those devices are connected to the same network. With other apps, you can easily look up if there is such a feature, and then check to see if there is a button or option you can use.
Sometimes a direct connection is the best connection, especially if you don’t want to strain the wireless connection in your phone or want any hiccups in the stream due to a brief interruption (even with some buffering options). A wire is much more reliable and is usually able to provide better streaming quality when compared pound for pound with wireless options.
Alternatively, if you have a smartphone but not a smart TV, but your TV does have HDMI ports, this might be your best option. This is especially the case if your TV doesn’t have a USB slot to make Chromecast and other dongles easier to use. It’s certainly a limited option in terms of necessity, but it is good to know about it in a time of entertainment emergency.
One last note on this entry is that you might want to invest in an extended wire to connect your phone to the TV. There is a drop in quality after a certain length (usually 30 feet or so), but your couch is unlikely to be this far away from your TV. If you want to use your phone while casting or just have easy access if you want to pause, something longer than the average will be needed.
You might not even need a casting device or dongle to stream from your smartphone to the TV. It might be something your TV can support itself, especially with more advanced newer models that were built with the knowledge that people want and use this feature.
It might be a little more difficult to describe how to do so in detail given that each TV will have slightly (or greatly, in the case of different brands) different instructions on how to set it up, but with a good connection between your phone and your TV you might not have to worry about having much set up on your phone.
To check to see if it’s an option, first look through the menus in your TVs options. It might be in connection settings, a screen capture mode, or labeled in a way to indicate branding. If you still aren’t sure, check the manual to see if there’s an option (if you have lost the manual, you can probably find it online). It may still require a smartphone that is compatible or capable of a good connection, though this won’t be an issue if you’re intending to stream from it in the first place.
Note that depending on the TV, it might not be as great a setup as some of the options listed otherwise here. Devoted technology and apps are usually more effective than what is a side feature in many TVs, though there are certainly variances. We certainly do not recommend buying a new TV for the feature but check your manual and options of yours quickly to see if it is there.
What if you don’t have a TV at the moment, or want something a bit more movie-quality? If that’s the case, then a projector is your best bet. With a screen and some sound equipment to match, you’ll have a smartphone streaming experience that you can be proud of. And much like other devices, it can output to a projector, so can your smartphone with the right cables and settings.
How you do this will depend on the projector. There might be a direct connection (whether by HDMI or another port) that you might need to connect to, in which case don’t forget your adapter if need me. Alternatively, you might be able to connect wirelessly to the projector, which is probably ideal if the projector is ceiling mounted.
Note that a projector isn’t an easy setup and a good one isn’t cheap; a 4K projector that is as reliable as you want can easily cost more than $1000, even with technology progressing as it has. But if you want that feeling you are at the theater and want an excuse to munch on all the popcorn that your heart desires, then a projector setup is the way to go, especially if you know you don’t want a TV in your home.
It might be a little more convoluted, but sometimes convoluted is necessary to get what you want. Your smartphone is a fantastic streaming device all on its own, and it might just need a little push to get exactly what you want from it.
Your smartphone itself often has an excellent screen, and if you are willing to put up with its relatively small size, then a good streaming setup can just be a nice spot to put it while you watch, and a good sound system or headphones in the room where you want to watch it. It can be a great option before bed if you don’t want a TV in there, and it can also be easier to put away compared to the rest of the options here. And in some cases, you can bring the setup on the go, which is not otherwise a choice. Portability isn’t always a key factor, but sometimes it is the only factor.
And don’t forget the settings if you want to enhance the experience. Make sure the resolution is turned up to the maximum if you have a great WiFi connection or data plan, and adjust the brightness and other settings as you see fit.
In many ways, your computer monitor is not all that different from a television. Both are screens, and both are perfectly capable of showing whatever you want to stream, presuming your monitor can handle higher resolutions. And your computer setup might be more comfortable for you. Therefore, why not give it a try?
As for how to do so, an adaptor with an HDMI cable with a direct connection to your phone might be easiest if you do not want to experiment too much with apps, but many of the other methods here work just as well with your PC.
And it might be possible to stream directly from your PC, and in most cases that would be recommended. However, there might be something specifically on your phone that you want to be mirrored, so we wanted to provide you with some of the notes here regardless. Experiment a little, and you might be able to do things you didn’t think were possible with a smartphone or your monitor.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for a streaming setup from your smartphone, and there are no shortage of choices you will have to make. Many of them will be easy if you know what you want and your situation. However, keep the following in mind when making up your mind, as well as when you’re setting up:
Smartphones are great, but there are some limitations when it comes to watching something with a crowd or making a great display of your entertainment. Fortunately, with one of the above setups, you’ll be able to get things going exactly how you would like to and get an amazing streaming setup that will last you as long as your smartphone. It might be a little bit of an investment now, but we promise it will be worth it. We wish you the best with your setup and encourage you to return to this page if you want to try something else out.