The Google Chromecast is one of our favorite, simple streaming options – with a new 3rd generation model keeping it up to date with the latest streaming technologies and services. But there are so many Chromecast apps available that work well with the streaming dongle that it can be difficult to figure out which you really need to get up-and-running right away.
That's only if you have a Google Chromecast, of course, and those without – or holding onto an older model may want to keep an eye out for a good streaming stick deal in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Although the Google Chromecast is, hands-down, one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get your TV connected to all of the biggest streaming services (and now one of the best-looking since the introduction of the Chromecast Ultra), this small streaming puck isn't known for its user-friendly content store.
This didn't used to be a problem. In the early days, Chromecast didn't have many apps to choose from within its App Store. But now, more and more services have the added ability to case, which means finding the must-have apps is becoming even harder.
But don't worry, that's where we come in.
Whether you're looking to play games, play music or stream new shows and movies, we've collected together the best apps to allow you to do whatever you like with your Google Chromecast.
If you want the most essential app for your new Chromecast, you don't have to look too far.
The Google Home app (formerly known as the Chromecast app) has always been a staple of the platform, but now it's more versatile than ever thanks to built-in universal search, content discovery and app recommendations. The app will also be your primary way to add more than one device if, say, you buy a second Chromecast for the upstairs bedroom.
The app itself is free, which is good because you need it to setup the device.
Netflix is one of the best Chromecast-enabled apps. Tossing a TV show from your phone or mobile device is as simple as hitting the Cast button, and the results are near instantaneous. Offering hundreds of TV shows and movies as well as some of the best original programming this side of a premium cable subscription, Netflix should be your first stop on the road to building your Chromecast app collection.
While the app itself is free on iOS and Android, you'll need to be a Netflix subscriber in order to stream content. Plans start at $8.99/£6.99 a month.
This is a two-fer. Before HBO Now hit the scene, HBO Go was a fantastic way to stream some of your favorite HBO shows to the big screen. There was just one problem with it: HBO Go required a cable subscription.It wasn't until HBO Now was announced that our eyes were opened to the bigger picture.
As a standalone streaming service like Netflix and Hulu, HBO Now unshackled itself premium cable packages, allowing users to watch shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley without buying a whole cable package. After its short, three-month exclusivity contract with Apple came to a close in August 2015, it rocketed to the top as one of the best Chromecast-compatible streaming apps out there. All that said, if you've got a cable subscription with HBO already, HBO Go is still a fantastic functioning Chromecast app, too.
Like Netflix, the HBO Now app is free, but a subscription to the service costs $15/£9.50 a month. (Currently unavailable in Australia.)
Subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are great in certain scenarios: because they're all you-can-stream, you never need to open up your wallet in between seasons. As a trade-off, however, you don't have the latest shows and movies at your fingertips. For that, we recommend the cross-platform compatible Google Play Movies & TV.
Using your Google account, you can instantly purchase and watch anything on the Play Store (think movies and TV shows from recently released blockbusters to videophile classics) without needing to download the content on your mobile device. Couple that with an easy-to-understand interface and seamless Chromecast compatibility, and the Google Play app quickly becomes the best piecemeal video service on either platform.
Even the stingiest of streamers can appreciate YouTube's fantastic and free Chromecast-enabled mobile app. It's interface is simplistically designed, just like the Chromecast itself, so it's only a matter of seconds from when you find a funny video until it's broadcast on your big screen.
As much as we love videos of puppies, though, when it's time to get back to watching real TV, we choose YouTube TV – the new live TV streaming service from YouTube. Like Sling TV or PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV allows you to watch cable TV all without a contract or expensive cable equipment. Not only is it a pretty great cable alternative, but it's a darn good Chromecast app, too.
YouTube is free to download on both iOS and Android. YouTube TV costs $35 a month, and is available on PC, iOS and Android.
Once upon a time, we might've recommended that you download Rdio as your go-to Chromecast music streaming app. Unfortunately, however, the music streaming gods saw fit to cast Rdio into the abyss and, for awhile, the world was audio-less. But that was before we discovered Slacker Radio – the hip radio alternative that arguably does a better job finding music that you're going to like while sprinkling in little factoids about the songs and playlists you select. Set your stream to 128Kbps in the settings, sit back, relax and enjoy your new favorite streaming app. Let there be sound.
Slacker Radio is free on iOS and Android, but to hear songs at 320Kbps, you'll need an Slacker Plus subscription which costs around $4 per month.
Google Play Music is the ultimate player for anyone heavily invested in the Mountain View company's audio store. Able to stream tunes from your library as well as from a massive catalog of on-demand music, Google one-ups the competition by adding Chromecast support to its iOS and Android Google Play Music apps.
Google Play Music is free to download on both platforms, but streaming music on demand requires a subscription to Google Play Music All Access, a service that costs $10/£10/AU$12.
PlayStation Vue, the new live TV streaming service that Sony intends to compete with Sling TV and the (assumed) upcoming Apple TV service, is shaping up to be quite the cable killer. When it first launched Sony only sold three types of packages that vary in price and amount of channels, starting at $49 a month and goes up to $69 for the all-inclusive pass and was limited to seven markets. Now the service is available everywhere in the country offering 55+ channels, including live cable TV, movies, and sports channels for $29.99 per month.
The app may be free to download, but the service costs a monthly fee.
We've sung Plex's praises before: the media center app takes TV shows and movies stored on your PC and streams them conveniently to your phone. Plex's best trick, however, is that it can send this stream to your Chromecast, effectively giving you a set-top box with access to any movie or TV show you can possibly imagine.
As well as its own Spotify Connect, the world's biggest streaming service also allows you to use Google's Chromecast to play music either through your stereo or TV.
If you opt for the latter then you'll see your currently playing track displayed on screen, but we imagine most people will opt to play Spotify through a Chromecast Audio to get their stereo streaming-connected.
With an increasing number of streaming speakers on the market now supporting Spotify Connect you might not need to plug in a Chromecast, but this is a great option for anyone looking to upgrade an old stereo.
If you live in the UK, one of the best and brightest names in entertainment is the BBC. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being so big and so bright the channel offers a free app that works with Chromecast. On it you'll find new episodes of the Doctor and Looper, as well as need-to-know news stories. Of course if you don't have your handset handy you can always stream from your laptop or tablet to the big screen, too.
AllCast is the Swiss Army Knife of Chromecast-enabled apps. AllCast offers an all-in-one way to take movies, music and pictures from your small screen and shoot it to your dongle. The free version slots in a few annoying ads and limits video length to a few minutes, but for frugal streamers it's the easiest, most effective method to taking your content from your mobile device to the big screen.
AllCast is available on iOS and Android. AllCast Premium costs $5/AU$5. Only the free version is available in the UK.
At this point we've covered the best ways to share movies, music, TV shows and photos with Chromecast, but what if you want to show off some good ol' web pages? For that your best bet is Chrome. Like using a web browser on a desktop, the mobile versions of Google Chrome essentially mirror your screen, letting everyone around see what you're seeing on your phone.
Chrome is available for free on both iOS and Android.
Twitch is a gamer's paradise. With thousands of streams going on around the clock, there's always a new game to watch or streamer to laugh at. Best of all, because Twitch's app is Chromecast-enabled, the party doesn't have to stop on your small screen. Whether you're an eSports fan, a retro enthusiast or just want to watch someone beat Super Mario World in under 27 minutes … blindfolded, this is the place.
Twitch is available for free on both iOS and Android.
Finding a rock-solid Chromecast game is the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. More entertaining games have made their way onto the system (see: Tricky Titans, Big Web Quiz and Monopoly Dash), but they're few and far between. Tricky Titans takes your standard rock-paper-scissors game and adds in up to four ogres dead-set on destroying each other's town by hurling pieces of your settlement at your opponents. It's silly, hokey and not overly complex, but Tricky Titans is a fun party game that will hold your attention just long enough to have a good time.
Tricky Titans is available for free on both iOS and Android.
Need to entertain your kids on a rainy day? Download Just Dance Now. With dozens of songs to dance along to, Just Dance Now is the perfect port of Ubisoft's long-running rhythm game. The magic of Just Dance Now is that it doesn't require any fancy technology to work – all you need is your smartphone and a Chromecast (or Apple TV, smart TV, etc) to get up and moving. How does it work if the game can't actually see how you're moving? Just Dance Now uses the gyroscopic sensors in your smartphone to get a sense of your movements. In practice it's a bit imprecise, but it's still a fantastic, fun and moderately inexpensive way to keep kids (or kids at heart) entertained.
Just Dance Now is available for free on iOS and Android, although the game does use microtransactions to play multiple songs.
While Dailymotion has long felt like the poor man's YouTube, the video streaming app has found an even footing on Google's small streaming dongle. The app here is just as easy to use as YouTube and, moreover, filled with a lot less advertisements. If you're looking to spend more time watching videos than you do watching advertisements, Dailymotion might be a better option.
Dailymotion is available for free on both iOS and Android.
Owned by the e-commerce giant of the same name, Rakuten TV is streaming on demand service that's available to download for Android and iOS for free.
Previously known as Wuaki.tv, with the service you pay to rent each film or series, with prices varying between new releases, back catalogue, and whether you want to stream or download in HD or SD it works in a similar way to Google Play, for example.
The reason you may want to try Rakuten TV as opposed to subscription services like Netflix is because you can sometimes get access to early digital releases.
Kodi is an all-purpose home media center that stores, streams, and records. As a 100% free and open source, it's always changing, adapting, and adding new features.
You can use it to store your digital content in one easy-to-find place, or you can use it to download and access live digital TV and music streams from around the world.
It's worth noting that it’s impossible to stream Kodi on Chromecast with an iOS device without jailbreaking and/or altering your device in some way, which we definitely wouldn't recommend, as you could put your iPhone's warranty in jeopardy.
It was only a matter of time until one of the most popular puzzle games on the planet came to Google's streaming device. Like the original, Angry Birds Friends sees the titular birds destroying structures of varying shapes and sizes but, this time, adds an extra level by introducing competitive play. You'll no longer need to wonder which of your friends have the high score – simply call them into your living room, pull out your mobile devices and settle it once and for all.