How to stream AirPlay video from iPhone to TV on the cheap

How to stream AirPlay video on the cheap

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How to stream AirPlay video from iPhone to TV on the cheap
The days when you had to pay $150 or more to get an AirPlay-compatible device are over.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

You don’t need cables to stream video from your iPhone or iPad to a TV. Apple’s AirPlay 2 system is wireless and easy to use. That’s been true for years — what’s changed is the necessary equipment has become very affordable.

Here is what you need.

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AirPlay lets Apple devices share with TVs

AirPlay is brilliant. With it, your Apple device can send video, music and pictures to your TV. It also offers screen sharing. And the software is very easy to use. That’s because it’s built into iOS and iPadOS.

To stream video from an iPhone or iPad, all you need to do is open the Control Center, tap on the AirPlay button, then choose the TV or streaming device you’d like to connect to.

Set up AirPlay through the Control Center
You start video streaming by pressing AirPlay button the Control Center then choosing the appropriate TV or streaming device.
Screenshots: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Screen sharing will immediately begin, with the TV showing whatever is on your Apple device’s display. This can be used to show pictures to a group without having to pass your iPhone around. Or turn an iPhone into a gaming console by showing the game on a big-screen TV.

But that’s only the start. AirPlay can be used with a variety of streaming services to put what’s playing on the small screen onto a big screen. I tested to be sure it works with Apple TV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+ and YouTube. There are probably more.

Once you’ve started screen sharing, open the video app you want to use. Let your device handle setting up streaming.

Enjoy AirPlay on the cheap

You need a TV or plug-in streaming device that supports AirPlay to communicate with your iPhone or iPad. Time was, the only option was an Apple TV, and the cost for one of those starts at $149. That’s not an outrageous price, but much more than you have to pay today.

That’s because Apple finally started letting other companies build AirPlay into their products, and one of those companies is Roku. Which brings us to to humble Roku Express. This tiny streaming device supports AirPlay 2, and Amazon is currently offering it for a mere $19.

Buy from: Amazon

I’ve used one for months, and it performs quite well considering the bargain-basement price. It doesn’t have the performance of pricier streaming devices but it does the job.

Even at the regular price of $29.99 Roku Express affordable enough that you might get one only to add AirPlay to your TV. That’s true even if you already have another streaming device you like.

Stream AirPlay video on the cheap with Roku Express
The inexpensive Roku Express is all you need to stream AirPlay video from iPhone to TV.
Photo: Roku

And you might have an even cheaper option: AirPlay could be built into a smart TV or streaming device you already own, you just haven’t noticed. If you have a Roku made in the last few years, you’re good. And TVs made by LG, Samsung, Sony, Vizio and others have AirPlay 2 support, too. Check Apple’s website for the complete list.

You’ll almost certainly have to go into your TV’s or Roku’s settings to activate the feature. But that’s involves just turning it on.

With the equipment needed for AirPlay so inexpensive, think about new ways you might use it. I regularly play high-end games on my iPhone with an external controller and a full-size TV. You might put a Roku Express in your luggage so you can be sure you can watch what you want to the next time you’re on vacation. There are lots of possibilities because AirPlay really is brilliant. Even more so now that it’s also cheap.