Neat Trick: Cheapcast App Brings Some Chromecast Features to Android

The free app acts like a Chromecast receiver--no $35 dongle required.

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After using Google’s Chromecast for a couple of weeks, I find myself wanting to fling music and videos to more than just my television. Fortunately, a new Android app called Cheapcast aims to make it possible.

Using another phone or tablet as a remote control, Cheapcast streams videos from online sources such as YouTube and Google Play Music,┬áThe free app attempts to mimic the features of Chromecast without requiring you to spend $35 on Google’s TV dongle.

Once you’ve downloaded the Cheapcast app, just start it up, and you’ll see a notification letting you know it’s running. After that, Cheapcast should show up when you press the “Cast” button in supported apps like YouTube.

Cheapcast is currently billed as an “early beta,” and definitely feels that way. I was only able to get the app working with YouTube and Google Play Music using my HTC One to send video and music to my 2012 Nexus 7 tablet. Netflix didn’t recognize Cheapcast as a playback option, and I couldn’t get my iPhone 5 to work with Cheapcast at all. I also had an issue with playback stopping periodically while watching a longer YouTube video. The app does not yet let you beam browser tabs from Chrome on a laptop or desktop, either.

Still, I don’t want to judge Cheapcast too harshly in this early stage. The app has potential, especially once Google opens up Chromecast to more developers. I’m thinking about using it to show an image or video to someone from across the room, or plugging the new Nexus 7 into my television via HDMI, using it like a streaming set-top box without having to navigate through the Android interface.

For now, Cheapcast is a neat tech demo, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as Chromecast itself becomes more useful.