Google's Chromecast dongle is the best way to send video from a phone, tablet, or PC to your television, but its lack of a proper remote and TV interface can be a sticking point.
But if you have an Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, a new app could give you the best of both worlds. It's called YouMap Cast Receiver, it costs just $8, and it duplicates much of Chromecast's functionality, including tab mirroring in Chrome and sending video from Cast-supported apps. I've tried it, and it works fairly well with a few caveats. (Hat tip to AFTVnews for the discovery.)
Until the end of August, you can try YouMap for free by downloading the APK file and sideloading it onto a Fire TV. This is sort of a complicated process, but AFTVnews has some helpful instructions on how to sideload Fire TV apps from a computer. If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can follow this simpler sideloading process instead.
What works, what doesn't
After dealing with the sideloading process, setting up the app is easy enough. Head to the Fire TV's Settings menu, then go to System > Applications > Manage Installed Applications. Scroll down to YouMap Chromecast Receiver, and launch the app. I did have to restart the Fire TV (through Settings > System) to get YouMap working properly.
YouMap works in exactly the same way as Chromecast. Just open up a Cast-enabled app on an iOS or Android device, and a Cast button should appear on the screen. Select "YouMap" from the Cast menu, then select a video or song from your phone or tablet. It should start playing through the Fire TV.
Casting also works through Google's desktop Chrome browser if you have the Google Cast extension installed. This lets you mirror any browser tab, which is great for playing music through your home entertainment setup, and for viewing photos on the big screen from sites like Facebook. Tab mirroring also works with video sites, such as Hulu.com, though performance can be choppy and audio is prone to latency. Some websites, including YouTube, support native Casting, which eliminates these problems.
There's just one catch: YouMap doesn't work with video apps that use digital rights management (DRM). With HBO Go, Google Play Movies & TV, and Hulu, I received error messages saying they couldn't load licensed or protected content. YouTube, Twitch, Pluto.TV, and Watch Food Network wouldn't even show YouMap in the Cast menu, and Crunchyroll failed to connect with the Fire TV.
Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how many apps did work. Here's a list of apps that ran successfully when casting from my iPhone 6 Plus:
- Comedy Central
- Google Play Music
- PBS Kids
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.