What's the best way to connect my iPad and iPhone to my TV? Do I need to 'mirror' the screen? Can I connect to the TV wirelessly?

If you've got an iPad or iPhone and you're pondering the best way to connect your Apple device to a TV, you've come to the right place. This article has everything you need to know about hooking up an Apple device, whether iPhone or iPad, to a television, and then mirroring or streaming whatever's on the smaller device to the big screen.

It turns out to be very easy to connect an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to a television. It's also very useful. Even though Apple devices have amazing screens (especially the new ultra-large iPad Pro), it's often better to play video and photos on the big screen rather than huddle round the iPad or iPhone.

There are two main ways to send your content from an iPad, or iPhone, to a TV:

  • Connect your iPhone or iPad to a television using the Lightning Digital AV Adaptor and a HDMI cable.
  • Connect your iPhone or iPad to an Apple TV device using AirPlay.

Both options have their merits: it all depends on your preferences. In this feature we'll look at both ways to hook up your iOS device to a television. We also consider ways to get the new Apple TV involved - it has a part to play here too. [Read: How to set up the new Apple TV]

How to connect an iPad or iPhone to a TV: Connect your iPad or iPhone to a television using the Lightning Digital AV Adaptor

Apple Lighning AV Adapter

Probably the easiest way to hook up an iPad or iPhone to a TV is to buy a Lightning Digital AV Adaptor from the Apple Store. At £40 it's not exactly cheap, and you will also need an HDMI Cable. Apple sells an HDMI cable for £15, or you can pick up a HDMI cable from Amazon for £3.99.

This little box of tricks contains an HDMI port to plug into the TV, a Lightning connector (output) for plugging into your iPad or iPhone, and a bonus Lightning port (input) which gives you the option of charging your iPad or iPhone at the same time.

Using a Lightning Digital AV Adaptor couldn't be easier.

  1. Plug one end of an HDMI cable into the Lightning Digital AV Adapter’s HDMI port and the other into a spare HDMI port on the back of your TV.
  2. Connect the Lightning Digital AV Adaptor to Lightning port on your iPad and iPhone (this is the same port you normally use to power the iPad or iPhone).
  3. Optional: Connect your charger cable to the Lightning port on the Lightning Digital AV Adaptor.

Turn on the television and ensure that it's set to display the video input from the HDMI socket (you normally use the remote to pick from multiple HDMI inputs on your television). You will see the iPad or iPhone's home screen appear on the television. (It may appear with lower quality and in a box shape. Don't worry: this is just for the Home screen. Things will improve in a minute.)

Start playing some video on your iPad or iPhone. Either pick a movie file from the Videos app, or play a clip from BBC iPlayer, YouTube, or any other video app. The Home screen will vanish from the TV, and the video will play in full definition. On the iPad you will see a screen that says TV Connected.

iPad TV Connected

Now bring up the Control Center pane and choose Video Output to enable specific content from your iPhone to be sent to your TV just as with the AirPlay TV option below. Or select Mirroring to show off the whole shebang.

Read next: How to connect a MacBook to a TV

How to connect an iPad or iPhone to a TV: Using Apple TV and AirPlay

Apple TV with AirPlay

The other way to enjoy content from your iPad or iPhone on your TV is to use an Apple TV (available from Apple starting at £129) and stream the video via AirPlay.

To do that, of course you'll need an Apple TV that's connected to your TV via a spare HDMI port and then connect the Apple TV to your wireless network. Choose the appropriate input on your TV and make sure the Apple TV's home screen appears.

Make sure your iPhone or iPad is connected to the same Wi-Fi network that your Apple TV is on.

Here's how to stream a video using AirPlay using the Apple TV:

  1. Start playing a video inside the Videos app.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Centre (you may need to swipe up twice).
  3. Tap the AirPlay icon and select Apple TV.
  4. Tap outside of Control Centre to remove it and tap Play to continue watching the movie.
  5. Look for the AirPlay icon in apps.

Some apps, such as BBC iPlayer and TED Videos, feature their own AirPlay icon. While playing a video, tap the AirPlay icon and choose Apple TV to start streaming your video.

BBC iPlayer AirPlay

How to connect an iPad or iPhone to a TV: Use mirroring to stream the whole iPad or iPhone screen

Sometimes you can't stream video from an app, or the web, on the television. Support for AirPlay is determined by developers, and not all want to support it (you cannot stream ITV Player, for example).

In this instance, you can work around the problem using Mirroring. With Mirroring selected you can stream the whole of your iPad screen, including the Home screen and whatever is appearing in apps, on the television.

Swipe up to reveal Control Centre and select the AirPlay option to bring up the AirPlay menu. Select Apple TV and then swipe right on the Mirroring slider button to turn it green.

Apple TV Mirroring

To view photos on your iPhone or iPad on your TV, open the Photos app, then select the Share button. Choose the photos you want to show by tapping each one until a blue circle with a white arrow appears. Now select AirPlay from the pop-up menu that appears and choose Apple TV. Your photos will now appear individually on your TV. To change the photo that appears simply swipe left or right.

You can also set your chosen photos to appear automatically as a slideshow. To do that. bring up the Sharing menu again, choose the photos you want to display as in the step above and, this time, tap on Slideshow.

Apple TV Photos

The Slideshow options menu will now appear. Choose Apple TV again. Tap on Transitions to customise the look of your slideshow.

If you'd like some music to accompany your slideshow, swipe the Slider button on the right until it turns green. Now select the Music option below and choose some tunes you'd like to have play as your slideshow progresses.

Now tap Slideshow for your slideshow to start playing on your TV.

To play music stored on your iPhone through your TV, choose the track, album or playlist you want to listen to, swipe up to reveal Control Centre again, select AirPlay and then select Apple TV. Bingo! Your favourite tunes are now playing through your TV.

Read next:

How to connect an older iPad or iPhone to a TV: Use Apple's Composite AV Cable

If you own an older iPhone or iPad with a 30-pin connector (if it's an iPhone 4s or older, or one of the first three generations of iPad, it'll have a 30-pin connector; the iPhone 5 and later, the iPad 4 and later, all of the iPad Air and iPad mini models and the iPad Pro have Lightning instead), then the Apple Composite AV Cable (£35) is your best option.

It works in a similar way to the Lightning Digital AV Adapter above, except that you'll need to use the composite video input on your TV instead of HDMI, and make sure any videos you want to watch are SD rather than HD.

There is also a 30-pin digital AV adapter available from Apple for £35. 

Read next: Apple may be forced to drop Lightning connector for MicroUSB

And: How to watch Game of Thrones season 5 on an iPad or iPhone in the UK