When it comes to movie night - bigger is better.
But a lot of the best options for streaming via cellular unlimited data plans are limited to "on device data" - blocking the connection from easily being shared with your big screen in your RV living room.
Most video services that allow you to download content offline will generally only download to a mobile device.
A great way around this is to use your smartphone or tablet to drive the big screen directly via a hard-wired HDMI video cable. With Apple products, this is easy via their Lightening HDMI Adapter.
You can use the Lightning Digital AV Adapter with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod with Lightning connector. The Lightning Adapter supports mirroring of what is displayed on your device screen to your HDMI-equipped TV, display, projector, or other compatible display in up to 1080p HD.
Simply attach the Lightning Adapter to the Lightning connector on your device and then to your TV or projector via an HDMI cable (sold separately). Be sure to match your Apple device's ports to the Lightening connector you purchase - iPhone models older than 5 and older iPad models will require the 30 prong HDMI connector.
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With Apple iOS devices mirroring is easy - Apple's Lightning Digital AV Adapter works with all current iPhones and iPads and is directly supported by many apps to give you a dedicated video output over HDMI, all while enabling a separate view of the control panel on your phone or tablet.
In the Android world - HDMI compatibility is a bit more hit or miss. Look for MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) support, which allows for affordable MicroUSB to HDMI interface cables to be used, and check for compatibility issues with your particular smartphone.
For many older Samsung phones - the official Samsung HDMI adapter is a solid way to go. There are also very highly rated options that integrate the MHL adapter into a long HDMI cable, perfect for leaving your phone accessible while plugged into the TV.
WARNING: Many newer Android phones (including the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S6 and newer) have dropped all support for wired HDMI output. Make sure to check the compatibility with your particular hardware.
Here's a quick video going over this wired-output option:
A lot of RVers dedicate a tablet or smartphone to be the streaming heart of their entertainment center, permanently wired to their TV.
The overall experience may be nowhere near as nice as directly using an Apple TV or Roku, but at least you can watch all you want without running into limits placed on tethering data.
TIP: Though most streaming apps work with HDMI output, do keep in mind that some apps (like NFL Mobile) actively block all video output due to licensing restrictions.
- Easy! Plug and play.
- Allows you to use your data on device (and helps you stay under any off device data caps) by mirroring your content to a larger screen, rather than using data on a device with a larger screen.
- Mirrored video quality is limited to 1080p
- Adds another point of failure in your video system - and Apple connection cords are notoriously wonky
- Some apps cannot be output or mirrored due to licensing restrictions
Lightening HDMI Adapter Ratings
Apple product that mirrors on Apple device content to a larger screen.