4 Ways to Record Screen Videos on iPhone or iPad: A Comparative Guide

(by JP Zhang | Last updated: May 11, 2017)

Recording screen video on a PC or Mac is easy, and you can find tons of screen recording software options out there. But what if you want to capture screen videos of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch?

Today, I want to show you 4 easy and safe methods to get that done. I tried quite a few solutions recently while making demo tutorials for a mobile app, and in the process got a comprehensive overview of the options available.

In this article, not only will I share with you how to quickly record iPhone or iPad videos, but I'll also list the pros and cons of each method. My goal is simple — to save you the time of exploring various recording solutions so you can focus on making awesome videos.

When you work on a project involving screen recording like I did, you quickly learn that time is money. Free solutions like QuickTime are quite good, but they lack advanced features you might need like adding an iPhone or iPad frame, editing voiceovers, inserting touch gestures or call actions, directly publishing to YouTube, etc.

Note: I've opted out of using illegal or insecure solutions which require you to jailbreak your iPhone or iPad (iOS jailbreaking is illegal in some countries), or contain vulnerabilities that jeopardize your device security. An example is Vidyo Screen Recorder, an app that got banned by Apple and pulled from App Store last year due to its violation of Apple's security policies (get more info on that at TechCrunch).


Quick Comparison

QuickTime

Camtasia

ScreenFlow

Reflector 2

Cost

Free

Paid

Paid

Paid

Compatibility

Mac Only

PC & Mac

PC & Mac

PC & Mac

Video Editing

No

Yes

Yes

No

See More

Get Camtasia

Get ScreenFlow

See More


1. Record iOS Screen Videos Quickly with QuickTime on Mac (Free)

Best to use when: You want to record a screen video of an app or game on your iPhone or iPad without needing a lot of advanced editing.

Things you'll need:

  • A Mac machine (with OS X Yosemite, El Capitan or latest Sierra)
  • Your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (with iOS 8 or later)
  • The lightning cable, i.e. the USB cable you use to charge your iPhone or iPad
  • The QuickTime Player app (installed to your Mac by default)

How to use (tutorial):

Step 1: Connect your iOS device to your Mac via the lightning cable. Hit "Trust" if you see a pop-up window in your device screen asking you, "Trust This Computer?"

Step 2: Open QuickTime player. Click the Spotlight Search icon on the top right corner, type "QuickTime," and double-click the first result you see.​

Step 3: On the top left corner, Click File > New Movie Recording.

Step 4: Move your cursor to the movie recording section. See the arrow down icon next to the small red circle? Click it. Under Camera, select your device name (in my case, it's iPhone). Here, you also have the option to select which Microphone to use to record a voiceover, as well as the Quality of the video (High or Maximum).

Step 5: Click the red circle button to start. Now, you're recording. Relax and navigate your iPhone or iPad, doing whatever you want to show to your audience. When you finish, hit the red circle button again to stop recording. Don't forget to save the video (File > Save).

Here's a nice video tutorial made by KingTutsPro:

My personal take:

Pros:

  • It's free.
  • Simple to use, no learning curve.
  • Video quality is good. You can export at up to 1080p.
  • Pretty neat interface. No carrier information is included.
  • Also, you'll notice the time on your phone or tablet was 9:41 AM, the classic Apple iPhone announcement time.

Cons:

  • For Mac machines with OS X Yosemite or later only. Not available on PCs.
  • Not compatible with devices that use iOS 7 or earlier.
  • Lack editing features e.g. add a device frame, gestures, callouts, background, etc. that are essential to make videos look professional.
  • Background noise is hard to eliminate.

2. Record and Edit iOS Screen Videos with Camtasia (Paid)

Best to use when: you want to capture video from your iPhone, iPad or iTouch, and then edit it as well. Camtasia includes tons of advanced editing features that meet almost every of your needs. It is the tool I used to complete my app demo project, and I'm quite happy with the results I got.

Things you'll need:

  • A personal computer. Macs require OS X Yosemite or later. If you are on a PC, you'll need a extra mirroring app (see tutorial below for more)
  • Your iOS device
  • The lighting cable (optional, if you are on a PC)
  • Camtasia software (paid, $99)

How to use (tutorial):

If you are on a Mac, recording and editing your iOS screen video can be done in one place. Simply download and install Camtasia for Mac, connect your device, and open the software to start recording and edit the video thereafter.

(This screenshot was taken from Camtasia for Mac 2.10.6 on my El Capitan based MacBook pro)

Here's a quick tutorial provided by TechSmith, the developer of this awesome software.

If you are on a PC, the process can be a bit more complicated, but it's still doable. First off, you'll need to rely on a mirroring app to make your device screen show up on your Windows PC. This HowToGeek article shows a step-by-step tutorial that is totally free. After that, download Camtasia Studio (the name for its Windows version), record your screen, and edit the video. Refer to this tutorial video for more:

My personal take:

Pros:

  • The software itself is easy to use, and has great UI/UX.
  • The Mac version allows you to record iOS screens with inserted device frames.
  • You can save time by directly exporting the recorded or edited videos to YouTube or Google Drive.
  • Camtasia has powerful video editing features such as cutting specifics, speed control, and the ability to add touch gestures, callouts, background images, etc.
  • It allows you to separate screencasting and voiceovers, enabling you to add voiceovers that are recorded separately.

Cons:

  • It's not free — $99 to buy.
  • Extra time and effort is needed to learn how to use the software, especially its advanced editing features.
  • Camtasia Studio (PC version) is not as convenient as Camtasia for Mac.

3. Using ScreenFlow (Paid, a Great Alternative to Camtasia)

My opinion of ScreenFlow is pretty much the same as that of Camtasia, with some qualifications. I tried ScreenFlow 5 for a time before switching to Camtasia 2, mainly because at that time I couldn't add an iPhone frame to the video I took in ScreenFlow.

Also, I feel Camtasia is more user-friendly. For example, when I clicked the button to start recording, Screenflow didn't show me what was going on in the screen (though it was working in the background), and I had to press the combination key Command + Shift + 2 to stop recording. How could new users figure that out on their own.

However, this is just my personal preference. It's totally possible that ScreenFlow fans find it hard to use Camtasia.

How to use (tutorial):

Step 1: Download and install ScreenFlow on your Mac, then connect your iPhone or iPad. Open the software and select "New Recording". Then, specify the options you want. For example, if I only want to record my iPhone screen, I just make sure I've checked "Record Screen from [device name]" and "Record Audio from (optional)". Once that's done, hit the red circle button to get started.

Step 2: Now is the tricky part. ScreenFlow will automatically record your iPhone screen without you being aware of it. To stop recording, press "Command + Shift + 2" on your Mac keyboard.

Step 3: Edit the video as you desire. You can cut and drag certain pieces, add callouts, adjust transparency, and more.

My personal take:​

Pros:

  • It doesn't just record videos from your iOS device (Mac only), it allows you to edit them as well
  • Relatively easy-to-use; no technical skill needed
  • Advanced editing features enable you to make professional videos
  • Directly publish to YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, Facebook, Dropbox, Wistia
  • Great customer support

Cons:

  • Not free — $99 plus certain upgrade fees
  • Less user-friendly than Camtasia
  • Doesn't allow you to add iOS device frames

4. Record iPhone or iPad Screen Videos with Reflector 2 (Paid)

Disclaimer: Reflector 2 is a commercial software that offers 7-day free trial, which is what I downloaded for testing. I hadn't purchased the full version before writing this article.

Best to use when: You want to record your iOS device screen on a Windows PC, and don't have much in the way of video editing needs. Reflector 2 also has a Mac version, but personally I feel the Mac version doesn't do much more than Quicktime, except that Reflector 2 can add a device frame.

Things you'll need:

  • A Windows or Mac computer.
  • The Reflector 2 software.
  • Your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, etc.).

How to use (tutorial):

Step 1: Download and install the Reflector 2 application on your PC or Mac.

Step 2: Make sure your iPhone or iPad is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your computer. Now, on your iOS device's main screen, swipe up and tap AirPlay. After that, select your computer's name and tab to enable Mirroring.

Step 3: Open the Reflector 2 app, then click the Record button to continue. Once you're finished, click the Stop button. Save the video to your desired destination. It's pretty straightforward.

My personal take:​

Pros:

  • Trial version (with a Reflector watermark embedded) detects your iOS device and adds a device frame automatically
  • Enables you to customize your screen recording with several different preferences
  • Wireless mirror — no lighting cable or other third-party software needed

Cons:

  • It's not free. $14.99 to buy
  • No video editing features

Conclusion

These are four of the easy, yet secure, methods I've tried to capture screen videos on an iOS device.

  • For Mac users, QuickTime should be your first option as it's free and handy. If you need to edit your videos, then Camtasia and Screenflow are great choices, though you have to pay for them — and they are not cheap.
  • For PC users, Reflector 2 is a nice, inexpensive option. Again, however, if you have advanced editing needs, I recommend Camtasia Studio and Screenflow for efficiency.

Are there any other solutions? Of course. For example, I tested another app called AirShou — it's free, but the process is super complicated and I spent way too much time getting it to work. In general, I don't recommend AirShou (Plus, the app doesn't support iOS 10), even if it's free. Also, I saw another solution called Elgato Game Capture that's quite popular among gaming players. It's a hardware-based solution that costs a few hundred dollars. I'm not that into gaming, so I haven't tried that yet.

Now I'd like to hear from you! If you like this article, a kind share would be appreciated. If you bump into another awesome method for recording video on an iOS device, feel free to leave a comment below. I'd be happy to test it out.

  • JP
  • August 16, 2016
JP
 

I'm JP, the founder of this blog. I've been passionate about computer software ever since I had my first laptop in 2007. I currently use a Macbook Pro, a PC (HP Pavilion), an iPhone & iPad, and an Android phone. My goal is to provide you with useful software and how-to tips to solve tech related issues. Learn more about me.

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