How to Feed Video to any HDTV with Your iPhone or iPad

by Barrett

If you want the ability to take over any HDTV in the universe sporting an HDMI connection, your iPhone or iPad can actually do the trick directly without AirPlay mirroring through an Apple TV. Your portable Apple devices just need a little help….

If you want the ability to take over any HDTV in the universe sporting an HDMI connection, your iPhone or iPad can actually do the trick directly without AirPlay mirroring through an Apple TV. Your portable Apple devices just need a little help….

Once upon a time I would go on vacation with a small army of tech gear to create an on-demand multimedia viewing experience for my entire family.
(The irony here is there has never been any demand for this capability. But of course, that hasn’t stopped me.)

First I brought my Panasonic portable DVD player along with 8,012 Lester-documented cable combinations to handle any possible TV configuration in the wild.
(Only slight exaggeration)

When iPads showed up, that made my packing so much easier. Who can argue with bringing a portable TV the size of a book? You just have to make sure it’s preloaded with all the videos you’d need.
(Assuming there’s no local Wi-Fi to stream with)

Problem solved.
(Well, not quite…)

How Many People can Sit in Front of an iPad?
The remaining issue is only one person can comfortably sit in front of an iPad. Maybe two…
(Of course I’d bring an audio splitter for two sets of ear buds, so my wife and I could watch an episode of “Downton Abbey” while our toddler dozed. But in those days, our little guy didn’t really doze, and by the time he got to sleep in a new hotel room, it was time for us to get some Z’s too!)

But recently I was introduced to a more advanced solution by some friends using their own iPad. This family is very much at home with their tech….
(I swear they come from an alternate universe where consumer technology always works.)

Vacationing with the Jetsons
Earlier this summer our two families took a short vacation together at a little beach house in Rhode Island. On the second morning, the adults were busily preparing breakfast.

The kids? Well, they were experiencing some early morning energy ‘bursts.’ They needed some focusing in this new and somewhat compact space. I’m not proud to admit this, but I suggested powering up thirty minutes of Disney Junior programming on my iPad Air 2.

I looked around for the 9.7” screen, knowing it wouldn’t be an ideal solution for our three young viewers.
(two five-year-old boys and a three-year-old girl)

Simultaneously, the other dad reached for a compact case of cables that was conveniently positioned by the large, flat screen TV set in the living room. For a second, I had a flashback to my own monster pile of travelling cables I had long ago abandoned. But it was immediately evident that this moment was about to reveal something entirely different.

A solution that made real sense…

The dad carefully revealed a sleek, white adapter cable. It was barely 4.5”” long. More of a mini adapter box with a short Apple lightning cable attached to it.
(What was this?!)

Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter

It was Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter that allows you to mirror the display and audio from your iPad or iPhone to an HDMI-fed TV or screen.

It looked so simple….
(of course)

It was constructed with a lightning connector on one end for your source Apple device, and a little white rectangle on the other with a hole for a HDMI cable and a hole for a second lighting connector to run power from a plug.
(Keeping your Apple device flush with energy)

I watched as my friend effortlessly performed a little tech surgery, slipping the HDMI cable out of the back of the DIRECTV box and connecting it to his iPad. And then, as if by magic, the iPad took control of the TV.

I think I heard the three children coo simultaneously. They immediately settled in on the couch to watch their favorite Disney show in this newly created movie theater, powered by the iPad… streaming off of the house’s Wi-Fi.

I started to drool….

Late to the Party
Look, this Lightning Digital AV Adapter isn’t especially new.
Deep down, I think I knew it’s been available for the past couple years. I just hadn’t entirely understood how it could help me.

But to see it in action during a live field test…

In many ways you can think of it as your own portable Apple TV.
(Without the need for AirPlay Mirroring)

Sticker Shock
But this magical convenience comes at a price.

Apple sells it for $49.
(Really? For just a cable…?)


Of course, I Googled about, hoping to find another manufacturer with a knock-off at a lower price point.

(Not even AmazonBasics)

I did some additional research and came upon the reason…

Apparently, this adapter is doing some really heavy lifting converting the signal from Apple’s native H264 video format to an HDMI signal for your HDTV. Apparently, if you took a buzz saw to the white adapter box, you’d find something that approximates a mini computer inside.

The exact process of the video conversation is something of a mystery, and whether the video quality is entirely maintained is a bit of a debate online.

All I care about is that it works.
And it’s 49 bucks.

To ease the painful price point a bit, B&H Photo has it for less- $44.99.


Ready for the Next Vacation
So I now own the ability to take over any TV I come across in the universe with my iPhone 6 Plus or iPad.
(An iPod touch with a Lightning connector works too.)

Will I ever actually do that?
Just knowing I can is worth the two Jacksons.

Call me crazy…