Display your iOS and Android devices on Windows, using Reflector and Droid @ Screen

Posted by Paul Braren on May 4 2014 (updated on Aug 13 2015) in
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  • iPhone
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  • When speaking publicly, it's certainly handy to be able to show a live demo of a smartphone or tablet, on the projected image. It's also best to not have to assume anything about the facility you'll be presenting at, if possible, relying instead on USB cables that'll also serve to keep your gear charged. These 2 Windows products can both accomplish live video of  your gadget's display right on your Windows desktop, but there are some notable differences, and neither does remote control. In other words, you're still doing all the swiping and touching demonstrations from the attached device, rather than from Windows. Yes, that means mouse clicks on the PC don't do anything to the attached device.

    You can see these two products demonstrated in the accompanying video below.

    I'll be using this software for a live demonstration of OpenVPN at a conference this week actually, at the lovely Microsoft NERD facility. It has very nice 1920x1080 projectors. But if you're presenting, keep in mind you'll want to rehearse with your laptop resolution set to 1024x768 resolution, since that's still the most common native resolution of the projectors out there. It's rare any facility operator or conference organizer will tell you for sure the specs of the projector you'll be getting, so be prepared to tinker with screen resolutions and device scaling settings, as needed.

    DOWNLOAD either or both

    Reflector

    Wirelessly mirror your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch screen to any Mac or PC.
    $12.99

    Squirrels-Reflector-homepage

    Droid @ Screen

    Project your Android device View the screen of one or more Android devices on your PC.
    $0

    Robomation-Droid-@-Screen-homepage

    Both share these advantages over emulators

    • no need to jailbreak
    • no need to be a software developer
    • nothing emulated, it's the real deal, your actual handheld device is shown to everybody in the room, that can be good, and it can be bad, especially when trying to discretely enter passwords

    Both share these disadvantages over emulators

    • onscreen tapping is a problem
      can't see any visual indication of where the user is tapping onscreen
      one workaround is to take your time as presenter, tapping slowly, so folks can see a button depress, and/or narrating each thing you're tapping on, especially important when UI doesn't indicate a touch
    • frame rates
      animation was fluid on iOS
      jerky on the Nexus 7, barely keeping 1 frame per second, almost like watching series of screenshots, not sure how much of this was limits USB 2.0 limitations, versus the modest processor (it is a much more affordable device)
    • lag
      minimal on iPhone 5 (< 1/2 second), poor on Nexus 7 (> 1 second)

    Comparison

    I tested these 2 Windows software packages on 2 devices, an Apple iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1.1, and a Nexus 7 running Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat). Both were attached to the same tZilla (ThinkPad W520) simultaneously, as pictured below.

    Sizing/clarity:

    • Reflector has a smooth sizing mode, where you can choose any size you'd like, and it seems to handle the onscreen font resizing quite well.
    • Reflector has sound support over AirPlay, so sound comes out of speakers of PC  you're connected to, instead of tiny phone speakers
    • Droid @ Screen can only change resolutions in rough increments (50%, 75%, 100%, etc).
    • For some reason, even though 1 to 1 pixel mapping is best for rendering of onscreen fonts and clarity, I couldn't get the 1136x640 iPhone 5 to show alongside the 1280x768 Nexus 7 with both set to 1 to 1 pixel mapping (Nexus 7 shows way bigger, for some reason). I'll have to work on that some more, rehearsing at the 1024x768 that most projectors natively handle, to see how well it's likely to turn out for the audience looking at a projected image. Yes, font sizes will be small, so I'll make adjustments to the gadgets' font sizes where possible.
    • Reflector doesn't look as clear with 1920x1080 mode on iPhone 6 Plus, won't (yet?) do 1:1 pixel mapping

    Rotation:

    • Reflector has automatic rotate, that is, you rotate the orientation of the iOS device, and the onscreen display rotates quickly, automatically, appropriately.
    • Droid @ Screen has a rotation feature that you manually trigger on the Windows UI. It's my understanding that competitors in the Android space do not auto-rotate either.

    Configuration:

    Android-SDK-Platform-tools-ONLY
    • Reflector was a very simple installation wizard, then you just swipe up on your iOS 7 device, then choose your computer as the AirPlay enabled device you mirror your screen to. Super easy.
    • Droid @ Screen has a rather arduous installation and configuration procedure, consisting of many steps on both the Windows PC and the handheld device. It took me about an hour of tinkering to get it all going, with about 80% of what you need to know written up on the Installation page. It's not rocket science, but it's not really "fun" either, given the third party requirements that include Java and an SDK, and the application itself is actually a JAR file you click on. A bit clumsy.
    • Here's some Droid @ Screen tips to help you, based on my learning things the hard way:
      a) make sure you carefully follow every word and screenshot, except the Android SDK Manager screenshot, where you really can get away with just turning on "Android SDK Platform-tools" only. Be sure to clear all other checkboxes, including the older Google USB driver (as pictured at right)
      b) you may need to lookup how to get the USB debugging mode activated on your Android device, debug mode activation instructions for Nexus 7, as well as the Nexus 7 USB driver from ASUS
      c) finally, if you find it stops working for mysterious reasons one day, you may also need to follow this tip to be sure you're in Camera (PTP) mode. This happened to me after months of successful use, not sure how it got set back to MTP mode.

    Price:

    Conclusion

    Winner is Reflector for the performance and easy install, and Droid @ Screen for price. We are all winners, since each product works well enough for presentation and video production, particularly if you're not trying to show off any streaming content on the devices.

    It's best to not have to assume anything about the facility you'll be presenting at, if possible, relying instead on USB cables that'll also serve to keep your gear charged. Keep in mind that for Reflector to work, both your iOS device and your laptop must be on the same WiFi network, which can be a big problem in some venues. I sure wish tethering via USB cable could be used as an alternative for Reflector, but alas, that's just not the way Apple's AirPlay works.

    Droid @ Screen does not have this limitation, and uses the USB cable for all video mirroring to the attached PC.

    Let us know your experiences with these products, or similar products, on the various hand-held devices you own.

    Comparing-Reflector-for-iOS-with-Droid-at-Screen-for-Android

    Read more

    Two Helpful Screen Share Utilities for Mobile Devices

    by AppBuilder on Nov 19 2013

    Windows Phone 8.1 Tip: Use USB Screen Projection - Finally, a way to show Windows Phone in action during presentations

    by Paul Thurrott on Apr 22 2014

    Video Demonstration

    Display your iOS and Android devices on Windows, using Reflector and Droid @ Screen.
    Here's my quick 4 minute appearance on Home Tech Tips, "Android and iOS Display Tips for On Screen Presentations in 4 Minutes on Home Tech Tips" featuring Windows Phone too!

    Jul 01 2014 Update

    If you're a Windows Phone 8.1 fan, you'll no doubt appreciate the Project My Screen App for Windows Phone. Uses USB, and has super fluid motion on screen and on PC screen, with no lag, and extremely impressive frame rates. Even on an HTC 8x. Even better, it shows the PC window watcher where you're touching the screen (yellow circle, seen below)! If you run into any issues, this article should help.

    Project-My-Screen-App-menu-showing-yellow-circle-where-finger-is-touching
    Project My Screen App menu showing yellow circle where finger is touching

    Dec 01 2014 Update

    Good news, Squirrel Reflector is now available for Android, through the Google Play store. It's an AirPlay receiver for your Android device, letting you show your iOS device display right on your Android device's screen.

    play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.squirrels.reflector


    Apr 15 2015 Update

    Squirrel Reflector 2 has been released, with greatly enhanced iPhone 6 Plus support. The built-in video recorder records iPhone 6 Plus (set to optimized for high DPI mode) at a crisp 1920x1080. The catch is that the upgrade cost is $9.99 USD, through April 22, 2015, using the discount "RF2UPGRADE" code the above link automatically applies.