Friday, July 29, 2022

Streaming from Your Mobile Device

In the recent entry Travel with an IRL Streaming Backpack, I spoke about buying, renting or building an all-in-one solution for streaming on the go. But this is a very advanced piece of equipment, which I really only recommend to those who have done a good deal of IRL streaming in the past, and plan to do a lot of IRL streaming in the future. Isn’t there a way to livestream your morning walk, or your trip to a restaurant, without making such a commitment? 

Why yes, yes there is! In this entry we’re going to explore a very simple (and free!) way to stream your adventures in life, by using the smartphone or tablet you already own. And on top of IRL streaming, I have a few excellent options for beginner video game streamers using these methods as well. 


Any smartphone or tablet could become
your next streaming device.

Going live from your phone or tablet is a very simple process. Just like when using a PC, all you need is a piece of streaming software and an internet connection. For iOS and Android there are several good options for accomplishing this, but the one I’ve been using for the past few years is the
Streamlabs mobile app. This is the same company which makes all sorts of streaming widgets, layouts and tools, as well as the excellent Streamlabs OBS software for Windows. As one might expect from such a developer, their app for phones and tablets is similarly feature-rich. You can set up various output settings for different kinds of connections, multistream through the app itself or a custom RTMP, add custom widgets to your shows, build overlays, see your chat and view count in realtime, and monitor recent follows, hosts and raids. To be honest, using this mobile app you have almost all the same possibilities as on your stream at home. 

If you want to do IRL streaming through the app, it will harness your phone’s front or back camera, in either horizontal or vertical mode. This means you can hold the phone in front of you while walking down the street to show a POV shot, and then flip it around to your face at the touch of a button to show yourself talking to chat. I’ve done this kind of stream several times when I was in interesting locations, and it works great. It’s also perfect for when you eat at a restaurant. You can either prop the phone up against something, or get a cheap little mini-tripod on Amazon (usually around $10) to show either your food itself or your face while eating. I’ve had a lot of fun doing restaurant and cafe streams with my phone, and doing so has helped me to discover a lot of cool new places I hadn’t visited before. 

Now, using your phone for IRL streaming does have its drawbacks. Depending on your carrier plan, you’ll need to keep an eye on how much you’re streaming. Unless you’ve got unlimited data, you could find yourself facing overages if you’re not careful. Letting your phone run the stream also poses the logistical concern of not being able to use your phone for anything else. This can be tricky when traveling, as you might want to look up directions to where you’re going, or reviews for restaurants and attractions before getting there. And while I can’t speak to Android capabilities, iOS will pause the broadcast if I switch to another app. It would also flat-out end the entire show if I got a phone call during the stream. Lastly, you should keep in mind that, just like with a PC, the mobile device’s performance comes into play when streaming. Adding too many widgets or overlay elements can make the stream lag or crash, depending on your phone or tablet model. All these concerns are minor however, when you consider what you’re getting. This is an incredibly powerful resource for IRL livestreaming, and it’s likely you already own all the hardware you need to get started. It’s tough to beat a deal like that!


On top of IRL streaming, there’s another feature I’ve personally gotten a lot of use out of on my phone and tablet. Using the Streamlabs app (as well as several of the others) you can actually broadcast whatever appears on your phone or tablet screen directly to Twitch. This has been incredibly useful for me personally. Whenever I’m out of town, I do all my non-IRL shows like this. Instead of setting up my laptop to broadcast my streams, or going live from a phone pointing at the iPad (a workaround I unfortunately had to use for a while), I can simply do all my streaming directly from my iPad. My daily Duolingo show goes live from a Google Chrome window, and the artwork I make comes straight from iPad Photoshop. Remember all the book illustrations I described creating in the entry Make Your Masterpiece on Stream? Those were all done straight from my iPad too! I’ve even streamed video games using iPad screen capture, complete with a PS4 controller that I keep in my luggage. It’s like having a miniature stream PC on vacation or business trips. 

There are lots of popular mobile games 
out there for you to stream.

This screen recording feature can also be extremely helpful for those wanting to get into streaming for the first time. It’s a great way to start broadcasting without needing a console, PC, or any other kind of equipment. Even if you have no interest in the portability aspect, you can go live straight from your phone or tablet with only a few button presses, using your home WiFi, without paying for anything at all. 

On top of that, I’ve seen other streamers use the screen recording feature in lots of creative ways. Someone with a streaming backpack for example, can use their phone’s screen as a secondary camera for an IRL broadcast. This would allow them to show themselves playing a mobile game waiting for a bus near their house or while standing in line at a ramen shop in Tokyo. 


As you can see, going live from a mobile device can be useful for all types of streamers, throughout the full range of skill levels. Whether you’re an absolute beginner, a seasoned expert or anything in between, you’re bound to find something that can come in handy. Plus, there’s no risk- it doesn’t cost anything to set up. So consider adding a new dimension to your livestreams. Take that phone or tablet and make something amazing! 

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