The Plex mobile apps for iOS and Android have a really neat but frequently overlooked feature: you can turn your mobile device into a tiny media server to share synced content with nearby devices, including other mobile devices and streaming apps.

If you’re just now learning about the feature, you might be curious exactly when such a setup—streaming from your iPad, for example, to nearby devices—would be useful. There are quite a few scenarios where this clever trick comes in handy, here are just a couple examples of when you might want to use it:

  • You want to load up a central device, such as your iPad with a lot of storage, before a trip so everyone you’re traveling with can watch their favorite shows and movies on their personal devices (perfect for keeping kids occupied in the backseat on long trips).
  • You want to play media at a friend’s house without dealing with the lag of streaming the content from your home server (your mobile device will appear like any other local server to their Plex media player and will benefit from local network speeds).

Any situation where it would be useful to stream media synced to your mobile Plex app to another nearby mobile device or streaming application (like the kind installed on many smart TVs), this trick comes in handy.

RELATED: How to Download and Sync Media from Your Plex Media Server Offline Viewing

In order to use this feature, you need a subscription to the Plex Pass premium service, as this trick relies on the mobile syncing, which is a premium feature. The primary device needs either the Plex for iOS or Android app installed. The viewing devices simply need any up-to-date Plex app installed on them (your mobile device, in sharing mode and on the same network, will be visible to other mobile Plex apps, desktop app like Plex for Windows, and so on). Second, you need to have some media synced to the mobile device which will be acting as the portable media server. If you need help with the mobile syncing process, check out our detailed tutorial on the subject here to get your device loaded up.

In addition to the primary device loaded with content and secondary devices ready to watch that content, there is on additional item you may need: a small travel router to create a Wi-Fi hotspot (if you aren’t going to be somewhere with Wi-Fi, like a car).

While device-to-device hotspots seem to work fine (e.g. if you put your iPad in hotspot mode and connect your iPhones to it, then they can access the shared Plex media) you’ll still need a travel router if you can’t turn your device into a hotspot or you need to connect a device that doesn’t recognize your phone hotspot. The bottom line is both the device sharing the media and the device viewing the media need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, regardless of how you achieve that.

Once you have your app loaded up with videos to share, a device to connect to it, and they’re on the same Wi-Fi network, however, the rest of the process is absolutely trivial. First, grab your primary device—the device that will be doing the sharing—and open the Plex app. We’ll be using iOS devices for this tutorial but the process is the same on Android. Tap the menu icon to open the Options menu.

Select “Settings” from the available menu options.

Within the Settings menu select “Sharing”.

Toggle the entry for “Synced Content” to on, as seen below.

At this point, you’re done with the primary device. No really, it was that simple. Now you just need to grab your secondary device, make sure the device is either logged into the same Wi-Fi hotspot as the primary device (or connected directly to the primary device, if the primary device is the hotspot).

Now it’s time to connect the secondary device to your mobile media server. To do so, you simply need to point the application at the new server. In the screenshot below, you can see the source selection option on the Plex for iOS application. Tap on the source entry to see the full list.

Select the name of the nearby mobile device (in this case, the nearby device is, simply enough, “iPhone”).

Once you’ve done so, you can browse the media categories on the primary device and it will look just as it would if you were connected to a full scale Plex server. In the screenshot below, you can see some of the TV shows available for playback in our phone-to-phone temporary Plex setup.

That’s all there is to it: with your primary device loaded with media and in sharing mode, all your secondary devices can tap into all your synced content for on-the-road media binges and easy sharing.

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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