Playing Amazon Instant Video from iPad to TV

Reader Andy Grant has unfulfilled expectations of his iPad. He writes:

I recently downloaded Amazon’s Instant Video app and was really excited by the idea that I could now stream Amazon’s videos to my Apple TV via AirPlay. But when I tried it, all I got was audio, no video. What’s going on?

Welcome to today’s episode of “The Care and Feeding of Arcane Licensing Agreements.” It works a little something like this:

Seemingly every device you use to watch streaming video has to be blessed by those companies that provide and stream that video. So while your “Internet” TV or Blu-ray player may allow Streaming Service X, Set Top Box Y doesn’t.

In the case of Apple’s products the restrictions are painfully laughable. On an iOS device you can’t stream (or play via a video adapter) the video from such apps as Amazon Instant Video, the DirecTV iPad app, and HBO Go. The audio stream is fine, but no video. However, if you have a laptop that supports AirPlay Mirroring under Mountain Lion (a recent MacBook Air, for example) you can stream anything you like from within Safari, including Amazon Instant Video, DirecTV’s online videos, and HBO Go.

“But surely this is a technical issue. The iPad must not have the processing power or graphics oomph to push this kind of content to an Apple TV….” you suggest.

Sadly, no. The issue is Apple’s willingness to allow developers to choose whether their iOS apps will support or exclude AirPlay and direct cable playback. If the developer chooses to flip the “Nuh Uh” switch, video out is disabled.

So what can you, oh Consumer Caught in the Middle, do?

Jailbreak the sucker.

I’ll leave the details of how to do it to the experts at the iPhone DevTeam and, of course, your conscience in regard to breaking license agreements. What I can offer is this: Once jailbroken you can both disable the software check put in place that helps apps determine if your device is jailbroken (so that they can prevent you from, say, playing streaming video on an attached television) and enable video output from apps that normally don’t allow it.

To disable jailbreak detection, launch the Cydia app, tap Search, and search for xCon (thanks to @joshfofer for the recommendation). When you locate it, install it and apps that refuse to work on jailbroken devices will now operate as they should.

Even on jailbroken iPads, AirPlay mirroring is a problem—some apps simply won’t mirror this way even with the help of a “rogue” app. However, if you use one of Apple’s video adapters to connect your device directly to your TV, you’re in business.

The app you need to perform this minor miracle is Ryan Petrich’s $10 DisplayOut (available from the Cydia store). Once installed, all of your device’s video will be mirrored to an attached TV, not simply the video allowed by Apple and third-party developers.

The usual jailbreak caveats apply. While it’s perfectly legal to jailbreak the devices you own, you’re severing your license agreement with Apple when you do. This means that you should not, in good conscience, expect technical support from Apple for a device you’ve jailbroken.

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