Cast/Share your iPhone/iPad screen to Mac
If you are pairing remotely on a mobile web project or doing a presentation that includes a mobile demo it is often helpful to share your iOS screen on your Mac.
Recently, we have been working on a project that uses ApplePay on the web which proved difficult to test on a desktop computer, and we wanted to show how it worked on an iPhone.
There are quite a few software products that can help you achieve this goal, but many of them cost money or are unreliable. In this post I will share with you some solutions I have used successfully to share my mobile device's screen. I’m not going to cover all the solutions that exist out there, and ultimately there are no right or wrong answers - it is whatever works for your use case.
Reflector - Cost: $14.99
Reflector is a software solution by Air Squirrels that turns your Mac into an AirPlay/ChromeCast device that you can then mirror your phone into.
It supports multiple device screen mirroring and can even record your screen on multiple devices at once. Pairing is super easy and uses common protocols for sharing a screen such as AirPlay, which is built into all iOS devices. You can even use Android devices using ChromeCast.
Out of all the streaming solutions I used, this one is the best at what it does.
- Although this solution works great most of the time, I did have errors connecting a few times in the past. But, those are relatively rare and sometimes depend on your network setup (you have to be on the same WiFi your Mac is on with your iPhone).
- Updates are not free, and there appears to be a new version every year or so with no earth shattering changes in functionality. Your old version will probably work until macOS gets updated or something breaks and then you have to spend another $15.
Quick Time - Cost: FREE
QuickTime comes built-in with macOS and gives you this functionality for free. To get started, you will need to connect your iOS device to your computer via Lightning to USB cable and follow these steps:
- Open QuickTime
- Click File -> New Movie Recording
- In the window that opens, click the tiny down facing arrow next to the record button and select your iOS device under the Camera section (you can also select your device as the Microphone to record the sounds from the device):
That’s it. You can now share your screen via VNC or any other screen sharing software you use, and your screen will include your phone. Or, you can record a video of your screen to share with clients.
The QuickTime solution is usually my preferred option since it is installed on all Macs, and it’s pretty straight forward. The quality also seems much better than the streaming solution.
- You must have a Lightning to USB cable lying around to use this solution
- If you have a newer MacBooks you would need a Lightning to USB-C or an adapter from USB to USB-C
- You are tethered to your computer while casting
Zoom - FREE 40-minute sessions, Subscription based
Zoom is becoming my favorite video conferencing solution, despite being proprietary and subscription based. The video and audio quality compared to any other solution I’ve used is just phenomenal.
The free version will get you pretty far; it should suffice for most business related calls or debugging sessions.
To start, open a video call and press the Share Screen button:
Then in the menu select iPhone//iPad via AirPlay or iPhone//iPad via Cable:
This solution was best when we needed our client to show us what she was experiencing when testing our solution on her mobile phone.
- Privacy. I am usually reasonably suspicious of anything that can record my screen and transmit it to others. Since this is a third party solution they could be recording the video and storing it on their servers which could include information such as your phone password/credit card information or basically anything you type on your phone. Their servers could be compromised in a data breach, or they could be sharing your data with third parties without your knowledge.
- It’s not completely free, and the 40-minute limit means it would not work for all-day remote pairing sessions.
Casting your iPhone screen to a Mac can be done in a variety of different ways and it is fairly easy to do. It can allow you to pair on mobile projects or help debug an issue with a client on call. Depending on your needs and your budget, you should do your research and make the best decision, but be sure to try the free solutions first.