How to use HDMI Adapters with Smartphones & Tablets

Getting your TV and media fix while being mobile is definitely an element of RVing

that has gotten substantially easier over the years.

Streaming Video over Cellular Data

So often we hear from folks that their mobile internet needs won’t be so demanding because they’re not trying to work online or attend remote virtual classes, they just want to stream “a few” movies and TV shows.

Unfortunately, streaming video is one of the most bandwidth-intensive things you can do on the internet!

Consider – a 90 minute high-definition movie on Netflix can easily eat up 4.5GBs of data!

For perspective, if you have a 16GB plan on Verizon at the current rate of $110/month, you’ve just used roughly $27 worth of your data plan to watch this!

If you’re paying by the GB, such as overage data on AT&T or Verizon at $15/GB, that movie would cost you $67.50!

Suffice it to say, streaming lots of hi-res video content is just not going to be financially feasible for most – unless you happen to have a truly unlimited data plan, or a plan with special streaming video features.

And there are options on all of the carriers for unlimited smartphone data, although there are generally some limitations to understand. Like:

  • AT&T unlimited plans don’t include any mobile hotspot/tethering use
  • T-Mobile plans put speed and usage restriction on tethering
  • Sprint caps tethering use on their plans
  • Verizon unlimited plans remain unthrottled and uncapped, but recent crack downs on some high usage customers leave some curtailing their surfing habits.

Streaming to the Big Screen via HDMI

When it comes to movie night – bigger is better.

Using HDMI-out from an iPad or other device lets you share your streaming content on any big screen – including using a projector to host an outdoor movie night!

But a lot of the best cellular plan options for streaming video are “on device” only – blocking the content from easily being shared with your big screen in your RV living room.

Or if you’ve been able to snag some free WiFi along the way to watch a few show, then the content is only on your tablet or smartphone. Which you do have the option to use mirror methods to get it to your big screen (such as using an Apple TV with an Apple device to use Air Play).

The best 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 iOS devices it 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 most 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.

Here’s a quick video going over this 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 nearly 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.


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