Several of my colleagues at the ABA TECHSHOW reception asked me about my infatuation with Chromecast. They understand the cool media factor, but aren’t sure of its “other stuff” abilities.
But Apple TV costs $99, and compared to the $35 price of Chromecast, there’s a lot of potential, and some good fun.
Thankfully, since the release of the Cast SDK, developers are getting excited about the future of Chromecast by creating some useful apps.
So, here are a few of my favorites worth grabbing.
Google Play Movies
I’d really prefer to use Amazon’s movie library (particularly since affiliate links pay me money and there are a number of free movies and television shows), but unfortunately, Amazon hasn’t released a streaming movies app for all of Android — you can watch movies on a Kindle Fire tablet. I settle for grabbing movies from Google Play and streaming them through Chromecast.
Play Movies has a fairly broad stream of content, and usually delivers new digital content at the same time as Amazon or other sources. The range of content also means that the price is remarkably similar to other providers. I love the fact that I can stream content to my Chromecast from the app or from my Chrome browser.
Play Movies utterly fails at delivering any unpaid content. Google’s out to make money, so there are absolutely no (or few) free movies and television programs. I’m not a huge fan of the over design of the app either, since the movie icons in the catalog are fairly large. The larger icons also means more scrolling to find the perfect movie, which could be a hassle depending on the size of your collection.
The Droid Lawyer ditched cable/satellite over 2 years ago, and our family hasn’t looked back. Of course, there are some times Mrs. The Droid Lawyer or I would love to watch a television program. Hulu Plus is our solution.
Hulu Plus offers a wide array of television programs and some original content. Most television programs are available within 24 hours of their broadcast. At $7.99 per month, a Hulu Plus subscription could save you a ton of money over your cable or satellite bill.
Although Hulu Plus comes at a price, the service still shows a high number of commercials — anywhere from 12-15 — during the program. The Hulu Plus content is also mostly limited to the four major broadcast networks — FOX, NBC, ABC, and CBS — but you won’t find any CBS programming. In other words, you’re not going to find any programs on Food Network, ESPN, or HGTV. Finally, the app has selected content, usually in the form of short snippets from shows, which can confuse people. Thus, even though you may find your program, you’ll find it’s a 30 second highlight clip.
Of course, I can’t forget this wonderful app with its abundance of television programs and movies. Netflix was one of the first apps released on Chromecast, helping to usher a number of new participants to its service, and a new way to watch content on your television.
Netflix costs $7.99 per month for a large number of television programs and digital movies. Netflix works hard to deliver new content to its users and stay relevant. Netflix has a great user interface, so finding a new movie is really easy. Reliving your youth is easy because of Netflix’s vast collection of old television programs and movies. A recent update to the app and site, also means that you can set up sub-user accounts to restrict content access by age.
Netflix has a number of licensing deals that restrict what content is available for any given time. So, even though you watched Transformers last week, today it might be gone. I’m not a huge fan of Netflix’s recommendations — their algorithm needs help — since a lot of the time the app’s telling me to watch shows or movies I’d never be interested in. Also, be careful with young children. Even though you can set sub-users, there’s no restrictions in place to keep them from switching back. Netflix seems to push a lot of
gay/lesbian or porno-themed independent movies, which might not be appropriate for younger views.
There’s more to see
While I’ve only tackled three of the major apps, you can still check out Google’s Now Casting page (and here) for even more great apps. Some of my other favorites from this list are Pandora, Plex, Play Music, and YouTube.
The trouble is, the Now Casting page seems to be Google’s pet project, and only gets updated at Google’s option. There are still plenty of other apps no on the page that deserve some recognition and attention. Some even have appeal for potential lawyerly uses — I’ve added a new section, if applicable, after the pros and cons.
A lot of people want to send local content (movies and pictures) to their Chromecast, instead of sending that content to YouTube. AllCast can do just that. I’ve discussed AllCast before, so I won’t bore you with too many details. Needless to say, The Droid Tots love seeing their smiling faces (pictures or video) displayed on the biggest screen in our home.
Koush continues to send fresh updates to the app, which also bring improvements and enhancements. AllCast sends crisp images (less than 1028 px is best) to your television screen so you can reminisce old times. Koush also added a “buffer” into the app, which means your videos play smoothly (720p is best), usually without lag. If you see lag, there’s a built-in adjustment mechanism for improving playback quality. AllCast recognizes a number of different media formats, and also many different media devices, not just Chromecast.
AllCast requires that you play back locally stored media — there is an option for Google+ photos, but it doesn’t work too well. That means you should download videos to your Android device before playing them on Chromecast. AllCast also comes with a “hefty” price tag of $4.99, so some users might balk. You’ll probably notice a 5-15 second delay before the video actually plays. This could bring an awkward silence to your group while you wait for the “technical difficulties” to work themselves out. Finally, as I explained in the review, you could have some difficulty locating videos on your device because of the awkward way the app recognizes and organizes media files — it’s an Android flaw less than an AllCast flaw.
AllCast will allow attorneys to control what content goes on to the screen. I image an attorney holding his/her tablet, remotely connected to a Chromecast (or even an Apple TV), and playing back the video deposition of Dr. Frankenstein (or a field sobriety test) for a jury using AllCast. Or even projecting pictures of an accident scene to a jury, instead of using a laptop and media guy.
Dehumanize Your Friends
There are no applicable attorney uses to this fun game based on the popular card game, but I guarantee you’ll laugh once or twice at the answers your friends give. You can check out my full review to get a sense of what this game’s all about.
Fun. Free. Guaranteed to make you laugh. DYF also has a great Google+ Community that helps in the development and troubleshooting of the app.
Some questions and answers can get very raunchy; consider yourself warned. This game is best played with 3 or more people.
CastPad for Chromecast
CastPad creates a drawing pad for your Chromecast. Using your finger or stylus, you can draw pictures on your phone or tablet and broadcast them to your television. I can image people getting into a wild and crazy match of Pictionary.
Easy-to-use and get started, with a wide selection of colors and an adjustable pen tip.
Ad supported (ads don’t appear on the television) so you might get distracted with the flash in the bottom corner. The gray border can get slightly distracting. I’d like to see a way to share the image. I’d also like the ability to upload my own images.
How about this? If only we could upload our own pictures and share the drawing with others.
Everything similar to CastPad.
All of the CastPad negatives, minus the picture uploading, plus the dumb watermark. Unfortunately, the stupid FingerCastCanvas watermark is highly visible on the display screen and Android device.
Not much until the watermark gets removed, but then use it just like my suggestion for CastPad.
MyCastScreen ($0.99) has a lot of potential to make someone’s office look unique. As I point out in this post, MyCastScreen acts like your own personalized news and weather service. The app displays traffic, weather, and news information for your location.
Very unique, full of a lot of information.
Currently, your screen can only display time, weather, traffic, and a single news feed. Also, the information windows aren’t customizable and don’t move. I’d like to see the ability to display more news fees, and see a customizable screen, perhaps even rotating windows. Finally, sometimes pulling the information can take a while.
Slap a big screen television in your office lobby and cast this to your screen. You thought your law firm rocked before.
Tic-Tac-Toe for Chromecast
It’s not really necessary to play a Tic-Tac-Toe game on Chromecast.
QCast is a fun quiz game for 1-? players. The object is to score 100 points first. QCast was one of the first game apps for Chromecast I reviewed. The games are usually fast-paced enough, and full of frustrated players shouting, “I knew that!”
This is a fun game for anyone who can read, or just press a button. There’s a multitude of easy and challenging trivia questions to puzzle everyone. Plus, it’s a free, fun game. The developer is great about accepting and adding questions.
You might see a repeated question (or two) if you play long enough. I’d like to see a way to add questions to a pool, perhaps a Wiki-like resource. I’d also like a way to customize and upload my own questions — perhaps for a college cram session. You also won’t see the right answer on your device or television, which is kind of frustrating when you’re trying to guess as to who’s buried in Grant’s tomb.
Solid Explorer works a lot like AllCast to send local media files to your Chromecast. That’s awesome, and it works well. This is a fairly new addition (the Cast ability) to the Google Play store, so I’m still playing around.
Works well and functions easily. Makes a good link to cloud storage sites, thus enabling you to stream cloud content (wouldn’t recommend).
Everything you need to cast content isn’t fully contained in the app, so you end up having to add the plugin extension. There’s also a small fee of $1.99 for the app. Since it’s a newer app on the Cast market, there are some occasional bugs that’ll shut down the adventure. Somewhat confusing to use.
Many more good apps to come
Thankfully, developers are getting more and more motivated to add Chromecast capabilities to their apps. I’m excited to see what the future holds, and especially if we see further development in the lawyer apps. Now, what I’d really like to see is TrialPad with Chromecast — I begged the LitSoftware folks — so we can do awesome trial presentations directly to our Chromecast device.
Now that I’ve shown you mine, please tell me your favorite Chromecast apps.