My iPhone Is My Apple TV?

Dave Zatz —  March 2, 2011 — 15 Comments

Like many of you, I took in Apple’s iPad 2 announcements today. As expected, given the rumormill, this iteration of the 10″ tablet clocks in with a thinner body that houses a faster processor and a pair of cameras. Not to mention a new option for Verizon 3G data services, although monthly pricing wasn’t disclosed. As part of the festivities, iOS 4.3 was also announced. And while AirPlay sees some improvement, I’m still not very impressed with its (in)ability to beam video to Apple TV hardware.

But Apple also happened to reveal a Digital AV Adapter this afternoon. This new dongle provides HDMI output, both audio and video (in addition to incorporating data/power pass-thru). Unlike the currently limited AirPlay and even official component cables, it’s a “true mirrored video output” that “works with all apps.” Meaning your iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch) will immediately exceed just about every set-top box you own when it comes to online audio and video. Well, assuming you can deal with lower resolutions and no remote control.

Watching Netflix, Hulu, Adult Swim, The Onion, etc with an iPhone and this cable on a television may not be practical on a daily basis, but the possibilities are interesting. And, as small as my Apple TV and Roku are, I’d much rather travel with just one extra cable… and not have to worry about punching holes through a hotel’s firewall.

Update: True “mirroring” is only supported from the iPad 2 according to Apple’s fine print.

Postscript: Regarding Apple TV itself, I still see no reason why a full-on app store isn’t in the cards. Then again, if the updated App Store subscription model stands, Apple may find few takers for their television platform and could choose to stick with the existing curated method that led to YouTube and Netflix channels. Also, Apple TV related, the new dual core “A5″ iPad 2 chip could make an appearance in an Apple TV refresh… and is probably just what the doctor ordered in bumping ATV from 720p to 1080p.

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15 responses to My iPhone Is My Apple TV?

  1. From the Apple Store-

    Mirroring supported only by iPad 2.

  2. The iPad 2 doesn’t actually play 1080p, it is just scaling the 720p to 1080p and I’m sure it doesn’t even do it well.

  3. Although using tvout2 on your jailbroke iphone 4 will do just what your saying.

  4. Good catch, James. And ain’t that a pisser. So is it a system resource thing that they’re only confident in running via the A5 chip or is it an arbitrary line in the sand. Either way, I guess I’m waiting for the iPhone 5 to partake and good thing Sling enabled component video out?

    Here’s the full text of the fine print:

    Mirroring supported only by iPad 2. Video out supports up to 1080p for iPad 2 and up to 720p for iPad, iPhone 4 and iPod touch (4th generation). Movies play at up to 720p.

  5. I’m sure the scaling works as well as any 720p to 1080p scaling. And I’m sure the A5 could mirror true 1080p if the iPad itself had a higher native resolution. I’m with Dave on the aTV getting the optoin to stream 1080p content. Seems a no brainer.

    I’m curious to see how VLC performs on the new iPad (and if I can install it from via my iPad 1. )

  6. Dave, so instead of those component cables you told me about so I can connect my slingbox back to my TV. yeah, i’m getting this cable instead! :)

  7. wait – i just saw the part about ipad 2 only supports mirroring….. sooooo, what HAPPENS when I use it on my ipad 1? This guy needs to know about this, cuz that’s all i really care about right now is getting my ipad on the screen.

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/03/02/apple_brings_hdmi_output_to_iphone_4_ipad_ipad_2.html

  8. So now I can finally get the DirectTV NFL app and mirror all the NFL games to my big teevee? :-D

  9. Evan, unknown at this time. But I assume it’s the same functionality as the component cables – but fewer wires to the TV and you can keep the phone charged. Wait a week or so, I’ll pick it up and report back.

  10. ipad2 only supports 720p video:
    Video formats supported: H.264 video up to 720p

    http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/

  11. Considering what powers devices like the Roku, I’m confident the new dual core processor A5 chip can handle 1080p. Heck, my current A4 Apple TV has been hacked to run XBMC and it just barely doesn’t play 1080p rips. (It plays, with stutter.) Now there’s no reason to tax the processor for 1080p on that small iPhone screen and on a device that allows multitasking, but on an Apple TV 2.5, it’s a definite possibility

  12. Dual processor has nothing to do with it, the iPhone uses a hardware decoder (an Imagination VXD to be exact) and does do software fallback for h.264. The hardware decoder in the A4 (and presumably the A5) can decode 1080p just fine, but there was traditionally no point in supporting it when their entire ecosystem is built around 720p downloadable video, and the GPUs cannot support framebuffers large enough to display it without downscaling. If you coerce a 1080p clip onto the an iPhone 4 or iPad 1 you will find that it has no problem playing it (modulo bitrate restrictions, etc).

  13. “Considering what powers devices like the Roku, I’m confident the new dual processor A5 chip can handle 1080p.”

    It’s all about the GPU, not the CPU.

    You can have decade old subsystems, and if you’ve got a proper GPU, you’ll decode and output just fine.

    Hi-def video playback is not computationally intensive, except for decoding the codec…

  14. @Adam You could have already streamed DirectTV to the big screen. Direct TV has a TV-out enabled app for iPad. All you need to is hook up the VGA cables or purchase a wireless streaming device for your iPad.

    Check out the wireless solution of streaming content from your iPhone and iPad to the TV.

    http://cywee.com/products/wireless/air-shuttle/

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