Chromecast officially launched in Australia overnight, and it's now on sale at JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and the online Google Play Store. It's nothing without good content to push to it from your smartphone, though, so here's a quick list of some of the apps you can 'cast' to your new $50 wireless media streamer.
Chromecast is a great idea. If you have a reasonably modern and capable smartphone, you can wirelessly stream and control the content from your handset to the big screen -- and all it takes is a few minutes of setting up. Here's the basic idea -- plug the Chromecast dongle into your TV's HDMI port (yes, you need HDMI), connect the bundled microUSB power cable either to your TV's powered USB port or the included power adapter, then follow the on-screen instructions to sync everything and get up and running.
It's easiest to set the Chromecast up with a smartphone or tablet, but it's also possible to do via a laptop or other Wi-Fi-ready computer. You'll have to install the Chromecast app for Android or iOS -- it makes the setup procedure pretty hands-off.
Here are just a few of the apps that support Chromecast:
Chrome: This is the Chromecast app. Any tab that you can view on your Android phone or tablet, iPhone or iPad -- or even a PC or Mac running the Chrome browser -- you can push to a Chromecast dongle. There are some nifty hacks on PC and Mac that let you cast some pretty high-quality video, music and photos to a Chromecast, but even if you just want to throw a recipe from your phone onto the TV, Chrome tab casting works seamlessly.
Youtube: YouTube on Smart TVs and media streamers has traditionally been pretty terrible. LG's WebOS TVs are the best of a bad bunch, but nothing compares to viewing videos on your mobile. Chromecast lets you cast those videos straight to your TV with very little messing around; being a Google product its prominent Cast button makes it ridiculously simple to push videos from small to big screen.
Pandora: The music discovery app du jour, Pandora lets its subscribers suggest a song they like, then builds a list of suggested tracks -- whether they're the same genre, thematically similar, or just equally popular on the hit parade. There's also an Aussie Chromecast Launch playlist to celebrate the occasion. You can use Pandora for free, but you'll only get access to prebuilt playlists of music and comedy channels.
Presto: Foxtel's all-you-can-eat movie streaming service, usually $20 per month, is getting an Android app in July with support for the Chromecast dongle. If you want to try out Presto, it's $5 for the first month -- it's almost worth an initial subscription to see what it's like via your PC or Mac, to decide whether you'll want it for Chromecast too. Foxtel's other Android property, Foxtel Go, hasn't been updated just yet either.
Google Play Music: Google's own music streaming service, available for a flat $12 per month, gives you unlimited online and offline access to over 18 million music tracks. If you're not already in the pocket of Spotify or Rdio, then Play Music is definitely worth considering -- it has fewer frills and fripperies, but when you just want to listen to music that's really a good thing. Plus, it's now a no-brainer to throw your music wirelessly via Chromecast to your home's sound system.
Pocketcasts: This Australian-made app collates podcasts and delivers them to your Android phone or iPhone, but it's also able to cast off content to your bigger speakers via Chromecast. There's a dedicated cast button, so no hunting around in menus is needed. If you're looking for a new podcast app, it's worth supporting an Australian developer, and getting Chromecast support to boot.
Bonus -- Netflix: If you're a Netflix subscriber who just happens to be living in Australia, you probably already know how to get the Netflix app on your mobile device. But it's also possible to get it from there to your TV via Chromecast. Props to Ausdroid for a great write-up on how to get Netflix working on your Chromecast dongle and Android handset -- check it out for all the details.
Have you seen any other Australian media apps that deserve a place on this list? Let us know in the comments.