Android A to Z: DLNA

DLNA, or the Digital Living Network Alliance is an organization set up by Sony in 2003 that determines a universal set of rules and guidelines so devices can share digital media. The devices covered include computers, cameras, televisions, network storage devices, and of course cell phones. The guidelines are built from existing standards, but manufacturers have to pay to use them and have their device join the DLNA.

With DLNA devices, you can share video, music and pictures from a Digital Media Server (DMS) to your Android phone or tablet. A DMS could be your computer, a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, a television or Blu-ray player, or even another Android device. Anything that has a DLNA server, or can have one installed will act as a DMS. Fun factoid: when a DLNA server is installed on a cell phone, tablet, or portable music player it's called a M-DMS -- the M stands for Mobile.

Once a DLNA server is in place, our Android phones usually have two functions -- to act as a Digital Media Player (M-DMP) or a Digital Media Controller (M-DMC). The player is easy enough to figure out, it finds content on a DLNA server and plays it back. A DMC will find content on a DLNA server, and push it to another connected player. For example, my television has a DLNA player, and my laptop has a server. With the right software, I could use my Android phone to find the content on my laptop and play it on my television. DLNA can really be fun if you have all the right equipment.

But chances are Android (and eventually other mobile devices) will be moving away from DLNA. With Ice Cream Sandwich, Wifi Direct is part of the operating system and has the potential to do everything DLNA can do, and more. We already have seen it replace DLNA streaming in the HTC One series with the Media Link HD receiver, which streams content from a Sense 4 device to a monitor with HDMI input. It uses native Wifi Direct, and by all accounts works really nicely. Or Samsung, who is using NFC to kick off a Wifi Direct session for fast data transfer on the Galaxy S III. We'll have to wait and see what manufacturers do with Wifi Direct, because having it built into the OS is a big plus -- even for a company like Samsung who makes millions of DLNA devices each year. 

Check out the complete Android Dictionary

More from the Android Dictionary


Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I don't know much about WiFi Direct other than what I have read on wiki, but it does seem well thought out. That said, moving away from DLNA when it seems like it was just starting to become ubiquitous feels a little like planned obsolescence. People may replace their phones every 1-2 years, but not their gaming systems or TVs (the devices most of us use to take advantage of DLNA). Unless I am not understanding how the technology works, this WiFi direct does not seem to work with the millions of devices that use DLNA. This kind of feels like that same situation many people are soon going to be facing with 3DTVs. It is well know most people with these TVs don't own glasses for them. Starting with this years models, there is one (albeit Draft) standard. How long do you think companies are really going to keep making the glasses for the old models? Sorry for the rant, I just annoys me that the electronics industry as a whole doesn't realize most people only replace their electronics when they are broken, not because there is a new neat shiny standard.
  • Ef Sony.
  • I agree with your 3D tv statement. I own a (9 month old) 82 inch Mitsubishi dlp with 3D capabilities and don't own a pair of glasses. However I didn't buy the unit for the 3D, I was more interested in price and size.
  • Once you try DLNA, you'll never stop using it!
    I've got it on all my devices (for Android I use ArkMC), WMP (rendere) and Smart TV
  • I also use ArkMC application. It helps to play music, video and picture from your PC, or network HDD to you mobile device. It is very convenient.
  • I'm too with ArcMC on my ACE IIx it can read internal SD and external SD as well but it sucks with slideshow to XBMC so I combine with MediaHaouse and everything works together because of DLNA. That's the future now.
  • +1 for ArkMC
    The best DLNA client for me