Sometimes, I wonder why great minds overlook simple things. We’re in 2018 and I still can’t easily and instantly project what’s on my phone on my Mac, on my PC or on my TV. That is, not natively. You need to get an Apple TV to use AirPlay or a Chromecast or make sure your device has Miracast. Well, Actually, there is a simple, universal way to use Apple’s technology.
I just finished watching season 4 of Black Mirror and I suddenly wanted to re-play my favorite episod : S03E01. There's scene where the heroine just flicks her finger on her smartphone screen toward a computer. We've seen this for years in various TV shows. And suddenly, it struck me how Airplay actually isn't very well conceived today. So I looked for a better way to share what's on my phone screen.
Here is just one scenario : you're back from a weekend out of town (Christmas... ?). You took some pictures and you want other people to view them instantly. Sure, you can upload them. More precisely, you have to make sure the Google Photos app is opened to speed up the upload process, then you have to select your shots and generate a link. And then send it. That's do-able. But not very instant.
You can also turn the TV on and cast your photos. But that means, you have to buy a Chromecast dongle and set it up on your Wi-Fi network.
There is something even simpler and cheaper : AirServer.
AirPlay is Apple's version of screen mirroring. It means you can broadcast your iPhone, iPad, or Mac screen to a TV screen which has an Apple TV (or a compatible dongle) connected to it. And if you are playing a video on your phone, it will go full screen on the TV and allow you do to something else on your phone or tablet.
AirPlay is installed on all Mac or iOS devices - or clients - but only the Apple TV (or a compatible dongle) can officially act as the receiver - or server. That's where AirServer comes in. It brings the flexibility of installing this server-side technology on any device, should it be your Mac, your PC, your Xbox or a Linux-powered box.
Once downloaded on your Mac, for instance, AirServer creates... well a mini server and transform your laptop into a compatible device to which you can broadcast your iPhone screen. And it's as easy as swiping up the control center and pressing the AirPlay icon.
I mentioned sharing photos instantly on your computer screen. But It's also true with little things. I, for instance, usually use Airdrop to send a link to nearby devices. However, not everything is "Airdroppable". Besides, whenever someone accepts a file that I just "Airdropped", he or she immediately is interrupted in his/her task. In those circumstances, quickly sharing something on my Mac screen seems appropriate. And maybe you don't want the other person to actually save the file, but just view it.
One can imagine various set up. Say you have an old Mac onto which you have installed AirServer. Your team is working on a project. Everyone can suddenly AirPlay their screen in order to show up their work. And the good thing is : they can do it all at once, unlike an Apple TV, it supports side-by-side mirroring from multiple devices. No need to invest into an Apple TV. No need to set up your team with specific devices. AirServer works pretty well with BYOD.
In fact, AirServer is also compatible with Google Cast and Miracast, which means that on the client side, we could also have Android devices broadcasting their screen. And since AirServer is available for Windows, Xbox or Embedded Linux, it truly makes the technology universal.
AirServer does not just take your screen to broadcast it. You have several options available.
First of all, you can go either full screen or in a window mode. This is why you can actually have on the same server screen several clients' mirrored screens. Apart from professional use, you can, for instance, have a split view if two people are playing a game on their respective phone.
AirServer also gives you the ability to stream the whole thing directly to your Youtube account. You can show up a game play or a bug in an application for instance. And the whole thing is live.
Finally you can specify a password to activate AirPlay so that you may filter what can show up on your big screen.
Airserver has a 14-day trial. To be honest, I found it so good that I bought it after a couple of hours. The personal licence costs about 17 euros (13,99 euros + 20% VAT). Well worth the money. There is also an educational licence for which the price will depend on the volume. For professional use, AirServer is available with Business or an Enterprise licencing options.