Google’s latest solution for putting internet video on your TV, the Chromecast, has sold out at most retailers thanks to its simplicity and its rock-bottom price of $35. But for those who don’t want to wait for Google, Amazon and Best Buy to restock their shelves, a new app dubbed “CheapCast” aims to mimic the dongle’s features at no cost.
Available now in the Google Play store, CheapCast is a free program that lets you cast video and audio from Chromecast-enabled apps to Android phones or tablets on the same Wi-Fi network. It uses the Chromecast API that Google released last month, and requires Android 2.2 and up.
Setup is just as simple as it is for the Chromecast: just start it up, select the “cast” option on a compatible app like YouTube or Google Play Music, and then select CheapCast as your streamer.
While it doesn’t let you stream directly to a TV like the Chromecast does, you can, say, stream a YouTube video from your phone to your tablet, and then hook up that tablet to your TV via HDMI, using your phone as the remote control.
CheapCast’s developer, Sebastian Mauer, lists the app as being in an “early beta” state right now, so you shouldn’t expect it to work as smoothly as Google’s device. It can’t cast Chrome browser tabs, for instance, and Mauer plainly states that “some (if not all) things might not work correctly.” And while one of the Chromecast’s biggest strengths is its compatibility with various devices, CheapCast is only for Android right now.
We’ll be giving CheapCast a fuller test run shortly, but it probably shouldn’t be considered a true “Chromecast killer” just yet. Free is free, though, and the app looks to be one of the first examples of developers putting the new Chromecast APIs to good use.
Update: It works! Well, kind of. TechnologyGuide was able to dig up a few Android devices to test out the services, including a Samsung Galaxy S4 and the obscure Huawei MediaPad 7 Vogue tablet. Google Play Music worked very well, and we had no issues connecting from the S4 to the MediaPad and streaming tunes, but not vice versa. We also managed to get YouTube to stream after a handful of unsuccessful attempts, again from the S4 to the MediaPad, but never from the MediaPad to the S4. However, switching between videos while connected royally messed things up and resulted in a crash.
We could not get Netflix to work at all, nor could we manage to stream Google Play movies. Also, because CheapCast streams between Android devices with CheapCast installed, it’s easy to accidentally stream content from one device onto itself, which predictably doesn’t work.
In short, CheapCast lives up to the “early beta label,” and has some potential to be the free alternative to an already inexpensive device, but don’t count on it just yet.
Source: CheapCast (Google Play)