As you might have seen yesterday, the Chromecast finally went on sale in the UK priced at £30. While Americans have had the HDMI streaming dongle for some time now – since last summer – for much of that time, there hasn't been much in the way of apps for the device.
Then earlier this year, Google finally set third-party developers loose on the streaming dongle, and the handful of apps that were in place to begin with became hundreds, and more are being added all the time.
Everyone knows about Netflix, Play Music, and the other big names, but there's much more to the Chromecast if you go hunting. Who's got time for that, though? That's why we've pulled together the coolest, lesser-known Chromecast apps for iOS and Android in this article – so all of you who've just bought one of Google's dongles can enjoy it to the maximum.
The high resolution screens on tablets and phones are a great way to show off pictures, which is the whole point of Dayframe. This app lets you create lovely slideshows with your own local content, as well as online streams from Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, Dropbox, and more. It uses immersive mode in Android 4.4, but Chromecast support puts it over the top. Just connect and your slideshow can be viewed and controlled on a TV. All the basic functionality plus Chromecasting is free. A $2.99 (£1.80) in-app purchase adds features like weather overlays, shuffle mode, and custom playlists.
Photo Cast (iOS)
Apple users aren't completely left out in the cold when it comes to slideshows. Photo Cast is a free app for the iPhone that can send your images to the Chromecast in a slideshow that you control on the device. It plugs directly into the iOS photos app, so you'll have to route any content you want included through that. The app is reliable and fast, but doesn't have a ton of features. You can't argue with free, though.
This is a less conventional use for the Chromecast, but it could be useful in a number of situations. CastPad for Android (free) lets you connect multiple devices to a screen and have your doodles mirrored live on the TV. It can be a quick way to entertain kids, or it could be the coolest virtual whiteboard you've ever seen. The free version has an advert and only includes black, white, and blue colours. A $2 (£1.20) in-app purchase removes the ad and unlocks 30 colours to draw with.
Plex (Android and iOS)
You probably have plenty of video and audio backed up on your computer or a server, but how can you get it on the Chromecast? With Plex, quite simply. This app plugs into a desktop client to transcode and stream all your video, audio, and photos though the Plex app for Android and iOS. In addition, Plex supports sending all that content to the Chromecast. It's probably the most robust streaming option you'll find because it can play almost anything in extremely high quality. The Android version is £2.98, and the iOS version is £2.99.
Pocket Casts (Android)
There's an entire universe of podcasts out there, and Pocket Casts for Android makes it extremely easy to get them in your phone or tablet. It uses server side refresh to make getting new episodes extremely fast, and it includes cross-device syncing. The interface is excellent on iOS and Android, but Android users have a little bonus. The most recent update added support for Chromecast, so you can blast your podcasts over to a TV or anything with an HDMI input. Because it supports audio and video podcasts, Pocket Casts is a great way to get content on your Chromecast. The iOS version still lacks Chromecast support, but it could come later. Pocket Casts will cost you £2.49 on both platforms.
If you need to stream photos and video stored on your Android device, AllCast might be the solution. This app can take any file your phone or tablet is able to open, and stream it to a Chromecast (as well as other over-the-top boxes). This doesn't require any additional servers or cloud services – just the content on your device and a Wi-Fi connection. The free version of AllCast has a 1 minute viewing limit so you can test it out. The full version is $4.99 (£3).
There's no version of AllCast for iOS, but PixoCast does a similar job. It can send all the photos and videos in your camera roll to a Chromecast with just a few taps. Unlike Android, there is no file system access on iOS, so if you're downloading video from another app for playback, you'll have to make sure they are being kept in the main camera roll rather than in that app's storage space. PixoCast uses intelligent transcoding to make 1080p video play smoothly, but videos still need to be in a format the iDevice can decode. This app will run you £1.49.
That's it for now, but these should be enough for you to get a whole lot more use out of your Chromecast (and television).