It’s been almost a year since Google launched its latest Chromecast, the one that introduced us to a new Google TV interface and created a sketch with the hundreds of Android TV devices we’d seen to date. A low price and a great experience made this new Chromecast one of the most effortless purchases for many Android lovers and even more non-technicians.
It’s easy to follow Google’s recommendations and use this Chromecast as the company intended, but if you want to get the most out of it, we have a range of power user tips just for you.
Google wants you to use Assistant and the Apps tab in the new Google TV interface to download new apps and games to your Chromecast. The full Play Store is still loaded, but there is no user-facing icon to launch it. So if you want to force to update some apps, switch user accounts or stop automatic updates, you need to find a way to get to the Play Store.
The simplest is to start the Assistant and say “Play Store.” But we have covered four other methods in this article.
This is the fastest way, but there are others.
Button Mapper is one of my favorite apps on any Android TV because it allows me to control what each remote control button does. There are buttons I do not touch (eg D-pad), but others can be customized to do what you want. Whether you prefer another streaming service over Netflix, or you want some shortcuts to open your favorite apps, you can assign this functionality to single, double and long press on any of the buttons on the remote.
But do not get too carried away as not all buttons are created equal on that remote and it is better if you know what you are getting into before you start messing around. That’s why I’ve created a table so you can see which buttons and features are the most customizable, along with a complete guide here.
Reconnect the TV input button to open the Play Store and Solid Explorer.
Once you are familiar with Button Mapper, you can assign a shortcut to take a screenshot on your Chromecast. I usually go a long press on the Home button. This is perfect for sharing your latest game performance or a moment from the show or movie you are watching – or sending tips to Android Police. We also use it a lot on the team, this is how all screenshots are taken in this post and in my Android TV tutorials and reviews.
You can see the detailed step-by-step instructions here.
Restore button to take a screenshot.
Someday you will need to load an app on your Chromecast. Whether you force an update to a preloaded app that has not yet reached you, or you install an unofficial app (it’s a legitimate use case, but beware!), You need to be able to send an APK to your TV then install it. You should think this is straightforward, but it is not.
You need a third-party app to send files to your TV, then you need to enable developer settings and change a setting on your Chromecast to allow installation of apps from unknown sources, and finally you can install that APK. We have the full guide for you here.
Installing Google Photos APK via APK Mirror.
If you ever load some unofficial apps on your Chromecast, use a way to launch them that does not involve digging into Settings to find them. Enter third-party app launchers that do not fully replace the Google TV launcher, but work like any other installed app. Open them and you will find a list of Other things apps on your TV, whether they are official or not.
You’ll find several third-party launchers, but the two I’ll keep coming back to are Sideload Launcher (though it hasn’t been updated this year) and SideApps.
Odds are, you do not need to install Google Photos on your Chromecast or any Android TV for that matter. But if you fall into the category of superduper-limited people who need to download screenshots from their dongle as quickly and effortlessly as possible, or those who want to browse the full-resolution version of their images directly on Chromecast without casting, then you can you need to install the correct Google Photos app.
The Google Photos app running on Chromecast.
The process is not for the faint of heart and requires many, many painful steps, which are made easier if you have a USB or Bluetooth mouse, but it is relatively worth it, because in the end you have Google Photos on your Chromecast. And from then on, any screenshot you take will be immediately backed up to your Google Account and available from the Internet or other phones and tablets. See the step-by-step instructions here.
Google decided to complicate things when it comes to volume control on Chromecast. The remote control volume buttons can be assigned to either control the TV volume or Chromecasts. If you select the former, you can not change the amount of cast content from your phone, so you need to reach the physical remote control after casting YouTube or Spotify or other media to lower or raise the volume. Therefore, we recommend that you switch to the latter option, which retains this functionality, but alas, you will have to abandon the ability to listen with surround sound.
It’s not an easy choice, but we have the full explanation for you here.
This is the setting to change, but it comes with a few compromises.
Google has recently stopped the standalone Android TV remote app on Android and introduced a new functionality built into Android and its fast settings. Compared to the previous implementation, you get power and volume controls (only if you enabled them in the previous tip), a more modern design and a more responsive app.
At this point, the feature should have rolled out to everyone, but if you do not have it or if you do not know how to activate it, we have just the tutorial for you.
The new Google TV remote experience.
Chromecast is a fairly simple piece of technology, but its USB-C port allows you to amplify it in ways you never imagined you could. If you connect it to a USB-C charging hub (to make sure you can still turn it on), you can try adding different USB accessories. A camera allows you to use Google Duo, a keyboard or mouse, so you can control Chromecast the old-fashioned way, a USB flash drive can serve as extra storage, and so on.
With these nine tips, you should be ready to take your whole experience to a whole new level on Chromecast with Google TV. Whether you’re just looking for a quick way to start the Play Store, or you need to completely customize your remote, take screenshots, and back them up to Google Photos, you’ve got everything you need here.
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