When we looked at the Chromecast, we determined it was worth the money, if you can get your hands on one. However, if you have an Android phone or tablet, you can turn it into a Chromecast for free with an app called CheapCast.
CheapCast is an unofficial app that acts as a video receiver for any devices on a local network. If you have Android device, you can use CheapCast to stream videos to your television. It's even possible on most modern Android devices to stream them directly to your TV.
What You'll Need
Before you get started, make sure you have all the necessary parts for your particular set up:
- Host Android device to install CheapCast on.
- Remote device, such as a second Android, iOS device or laptop.
- Television with an available HDMI port.
- Micro HDMI cable (if your host device has an available port).
- MHL adaptor (most flagship Android devices don't have HDMI ports).
All of the above are required if you want to use this setup on a television. CheapCast can also be used to send videos between multiple Android devices, so if all you want to do is toss a video from your phone to your tablet, you can ignore the last three items above.
Step 1: Install and Set Up CheapCast
Using CheapCast on an Android device is a dead-simple affair. Install the app from the Play Store on the device you want to act as the receiver. From the main screen, give your virtual Chromecast a name. Jjust like with the real thing, any device on the network will be able to send videos to it.
Note that CheapCast runs as a background service, so you'll probably want to disable it when you're not using it (otherwise someone could send videos to your phone and interrupt what you're doing, plus you'll be wasting power). You can disable the service from the notification shade.
Step 2: Hook Up to Your Television
Some Android devices have micro HDMI ports built in. If you're one of those lucky few, then all you need is a cable to run from your Android device to the television. However, most of the major flagship handsets of the recent years haven't included this feature. The rest of us need a bit of extra gear.
Most major flagships include support for MHL. This means that you can buy an adaptor (for considerably less than the cost of a Chromecast) that will allow you to output HD video via your microUSB port. Simply plug the adaptor into your phone or tablet, and then use a regular HDMI cable to connect it to your television.
Step 3: Enjoy Your Chromecast!
As we stated in our initial look at the Chromecast, the entire setup is still pretty new. So far, the officially supported apps include YouTube, Google Play Movies and Google Play Music. However, Blip, Vevo and Devour have also pledged to support the Chromecast.
In addition, the developer community has stepped up to provide a lot of promising solutions that can fling video every which way. Koushik Dutta (of ClockworkMod and DeskSMS fame) has demoed streaming from Dropbox, your phone's gallery, RSS video feeds and more, straight from CyanogenMod. In short, there are a lot of ways that Chromecast could get very exciting very fast.
If you have an Android device laying around that you can hook up to a television, and any other mobile device that can be used as a remote, then you can skip the hunt for a sold out $US35 HDMI stick that isn't officially available in Australia. It's also a neat way to pass videos between mobile devices. While it's not a perfect solution for everything, it's a quick and easy way to solve the "I'd rather watch this on my TV" problem.
The use cases for Chromecast are still limited to the number and type of apps that support it, but that field of development is looking promising.