Playing iPhone media through iTunes

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Reader Adam Spelbring is unsure of exactly what limitations the Lightning connector places on iOS devices, particularly in their relationship to iTunes. He writes:

I’ve heard that the Lightning connector doesn’t carry a video signal to external devices. Does that also mean you cannot play video from your iPhone 5 when connected to your Mac using iTunes?

Let’s take a step back and clear up a tiny bit of confusion. When the Lightning connector was first announced, some reported that the connector didn’t support video output. My colleague Dan Frakes cleared that up, confirming with Apple that the connector could indeed handle both audio and video. However, to make this happen, Apple has to release video adapters, which it says it plans to do in the coming months.

At the risk of taking yet another step back and walking all the way out of the column, some readers may not know what you’re talking about when you mention playing video from an iOS device or iPod through iTunes to your Mac’s screen. It’s like this:

For many iterations of the iPod (and now iOS devices), you could plug one of these gadgets into your Mac, select it in iTunes’ source list, access one of its media folders, choose a hunk of media (a song, TV show, or movie, for example), click Play, and the media would play through your Mac just as if that media was stored locally in your iTunes library. I’ve used this trick for years—filling a 160GB iPod classic with movies and playing them on my MacBook Pro, thus saving my MacBook’s storage space for more important data.

Lightning connector
Don't let the Lightning connector scare you away from playing movies from your iPod or iOS device

The introductions of the Lightning connector does nothing to change this relationship. And it doesn’t because, as in the past, iTunes handles all the video and audio chores. It simply treats your iPhone, iPod, or iPad as a storage device that’s available directly from within iTunes. The tethered gadget needn’t concern itself with projecting video. Rather, it just has to offer up the files stored on it for playback.

The one difficulty you may encounter, on any iPod or iOS device you use this way, is with iTunes protected media. If you’ve copied a movie you purchased to your iPhone and then jacked the phone into another computer, you’ll be required to authorize that computer with one of your five iTunes authorizations before you can play the movie.

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