The past two decades have seen Amazon’s rise in dominance, from an online book retailer attempting to revolutionize the industry, to a tech giant that seemingly has their hands in every possible tech product category they could. From free two-day shipping on almost any product in the world, to their lineup of eReaders and cheap tablets for watching videos and playing games, Amazon is one of the four or five tech companies that shape our lives every day. One of their earlier pursuits in tech products, however, was their Amazon Prime Video service, a competitor to Netflix and Hulu that allows Prime subscribers to access a wide variety of streaming films and television shows. Amazon Prime Video has a wide variety of content, including a ton of recent Blockbusters, some of the best HBO series, and a great collection of original series and movies. Amazon’s original products have been nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys, finding critical acclaim, making it an ideal streaming service to keep paying for.
In fact, there’s only one major complaint we can think of about Amazon’s Prime Video service. When two tech giants go head to head in competition, it can hurt the consumer, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen with the feud between Amazon and Google. One of Amazon’s most popular products is their Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, two streaming boxes that are capable of showing Amazon content, in addition to a number of third-party apps and services like Netflix, Hulu, Plex, and so much more. Unfortunately, Google also happens to sell products that compete directly with Amazon’s Fire TV. The Google Chromecast line is just as affordable as what we’ve seen from Amazon, but instead of including an interface and a dedicated remote, allows you to control what’s streaming directly from your phone. This makes it incredibly easy to pick up and start playing what you’re watching on your phone back on your television, without having to fiddle around with a remote control or a poor interface. Not everyone prefers the Chromecast experience, and it certainly isn’t without flaws, but it does offer some advantages over Amazon’s Fire Stick.
Google and Amazon have been feuding for quite some time, and this fight has really started to hurt consumers. Amazon has refused to add proper Cast support to Amazon’s Prime Video player or application on both iOS and Android, leaving most users without a choice for watching their favorite Amazon shows and movies on their television without purchasing an Amazon Fire TV or other streaming stick (like a Roku device, which supports both Google and Amazon content). Without official support, it’s difficult to suggest a perfect workaround, but with that said, here are the best ways to use Amazon Prime Video with your Chromecast as it exists currently.
Casting From Your PC or Mac
Casting from your PC or Mac seems to be the easiest way to stream content from Amazon Prime Video to your television, since it manages to supersede any limitations placed on the app by Amazon. We’ll get to the mobile experience in a moment, but in short, you might want to grab your laptop for this one. In order to cast from your Mac or PC, the only thing you’ll need to ensure that you’ve installed on your device is Google’s Chrome browser. If you’re a regular Chromecast user, you probably already have it installed on your device, but if you somehow don’t, you can grab it from Google’s website here. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re logged into your Amazon account inside of Chrome.
Open up a new tab or window in Chrome and load Amazon’s Prime Video page. You can browse through the listings to find the show or movie you want, or just search using the bar at the top of the page. Amazon’s desktop layout isn’t quite as clean as the mobile experience, but it’s certainly usable. Once you find the movie or television show you want to stream, click on your selection and open the video in your browser. When the video begins to playback, make sure you don’t make the window fullscreen.
Instead, as the movie or episode begins to start, click on the triple-dotted menu button to open the Chrome menu, then scroll down until you find the Cast button. Clicking on Cast will load an option that allows you to stream the tab from your computer to your television using your Chromecast. You’ll be able to see every device on your network at the time, including Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, and Google Home devices. You can select the proper device from the list that drops down from the top of your browser, and once you’ve selected an option, you can allow it to play in the background.
Selecting your Chromecast device should allow the video to begin playing on your device. Because you’re mirroring the tab between your devices, you’ll want to make sure you hit full screen on the video playback option on your device. For the most part, casting from Chrome to your Chromecast seems to work without any major issues. The device loads properly, displaying the video in full resolution. We did experience some light buffering when playing back content, but overall, casting using the basic utility built into Chrome seems to work well. Glitches or lag seemed to last only a few milliseconds before the video caught up, and all of our tests seemed to pass with flying colors. Video resolution was solid, and as mentioned, with the full screen icon checked, the video filled the entire resolution of our television.
That said, some users have experienced difficulty using this method when casting from Chrome to a Chromecast under the default Amazon player settings. By default, Amazon’s video player used to be built on Microsoft Silverlight, the same technology that powered Netflix and other streaming services. Silverlight allows these players to feature a smooth and reliable player while also controlling the DRM portions of the device, blocking the ability to steal the stream for piracy reasons. Unfortunately, sometimes Silverlight gets in the way of being able to cast reliably from one device to another, which means you’ll want to make sure that your Chrome browser is updated fully to ensure that Amazon’s video player uses the newer HTML5 interface over the older Silverlight or Flash interface. With both of the older standards gone, you should be able to playback your video without issue. You can also try to ensure the video begins playing by signing out and back into your account on Chrome.
Casting From Your Mobile Device
It’s understandable that you might not want to cast from your laptop. Maybe you rely on your smartphone entirely for your internet browsing. Maybe the only computer you have is a desktop, and it’s difficult to control and cast your content from the device that’s in a different room in your house. Casting from your smartphone or tablet isn’t impossible, but it definitely doesn’t work as well as casting from your computer. You may want to consider using your computer if you can, but with that said, mobile users aren’t completely out of luck just yet.
Android users are going to have a better time with this than non-Android users, even if it means having to forego use of their mobile device while streaming. Like Chrome on desktop, Chromecast allows you to mirror your mobile device to your television for watching entertainment. Unlike your desktop computer, however, Android devices allow you to mirror the entire screen, including every app on your device, your camera, and even text messages that come in on your phone (Cast on Chrome also sort of allows you to your television, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as casting a single tab). It works fairly well, as far as mirroring displays go, without a whole lot of lag or frame drops, and the quality is solid if imperfect. Mirroring your device is pretty easy to do as well, and it’s currently the only way to use Amazon Prime Video with your Chromecast on Android.
Start by downloading the official Prime Video app from Google Play here, if you haven’t already. In 2017, Amazon finally listed their Prime Video app on the Play Store after years of its absence, which required you to have to pull the app from the Amazon Appstore, an extra step that (presumably) was skipped by hundreds of thousands of users. The Prime Video app on Google Play is upgraded at the same rate as the version on the Amazon Appstore, so it doesn’t matter which you have installed on your device as long as you have it. You’ll also need the Google Home app, which you probably already have downloaded as a Chromecast user. If you don’t, you should grab it from the Play Store. It’s a solid app to keep on your device, allowing you to change a huge percentage of your settings on your Chromecast with little effort.
More importantly for our usage, however, is the ability to mirror our device from the app. With the Home app open on your screen, open the device and select the menu icon in the top left corner. At the top of the display, select “Cast Screen / Audio” and hit the button on the following display. Select your television with your Chromecast connected to it, your your display will immediately start to mirror on your television, presumably in portrait mode, with large black bars on the left and right side of the display. If you’re using a phone with a taller aspect ratio, like the Pixel 2 XL or any of Samsung’s 2017 flagships, these black bars will be even larger.
With your device mirroring to your television, it’s time to open up the Prime Video app to stream to your TV. We suggest turning on rotation on your device and turning it to the right or left to browse through your listings, since it’ll take up far more of the display. Select a title within Amazon Prime to begin playback on your television, and you’ll see your screen mirrored between the two devices. All of your playback controls are done right on your phone, and they’ll appear on your television when you go to pause something. This isn’t a perfect solution, however, and here’s why:
- On those same devices with odd aspect ratios, there’s no way to “zoom” into the picture. With our test device, a Pixel 2 XL, the aspect ratio is 18:9 while the television is a standard 16:9. As you can see from the photo, black bars surround the entire image, reducing the size of the video and making it less enjoyable to watch. Compare this to the photo above when casting from a laptop, and you’ll see there’s a pretty major difference. As phones continue to move towards irregular aspect ratios, this will only become more of a problem.
- Quality is also lacking here. Putting the video in fullscreen on desktop allows the quality to improve to around 720p, a solid amount for most shows and movies, but mirroring from your phone is another story. We’d estimate the resolution of the video to be about the same, but the bitrate is far lower, with noticeable artifacts that make the viewing experience a little worse than you might expect. Buffering doesn’t seem to help, and the artifacting seems to come from using mirroring over wireless internet.
- That said, frame rate is surprisingly decent. There was little to no issues using the player to mirror beyond some quality problems, but in terms of audio and visual appearances, everything seemed solid. In fact, outside of the two issues above, playing back the video seemed solid. And those with phones still using a 16:9 aspect ratio (and there are plenty of them) will likely find the only issue comes from artifacting.
- One other problem, of course, is to be expected when mirroring your device. Unlike on a desktop or laptop computer, where you have the option to mirror a single tab, Android only allows you to mirror your entire device (since the majority of apps on the platform have proper Chromecast support). This means if you have to do anything on your phone, from sending a text to checking the time, it’s going to appear on your television, interrupting the stream and displaying your personal information for all to see. If you’re watching your content alone, this might not be a big deal. To anyone watching with family members or friends, however, it’s likely that this will cause an interruption to both their entertainment and a disruption to your own sense of privacy. Since Android notifications typically appear as heads-up displays, most notifications will display over the video as you watch. Something to keep in mind as you stream.
It’s definitely not an ideal way to way Amazon Prime Video on your mobile device, but it’s totally usable and does stream the video right from your phone to your television. Still, if you can’t put up with the aspect ratio, black bars, and artifacting, we suggest using your laptop or desktop to stream proper video. As discussed below, there are remote apps available for iOS and Android that allow you to control your playback on your computer from your phone.
To cut to the chase, iOS users are a bit out of luck here. As of writing, there’s no sensible way to cast Amazon Prime Video to your Chromecast device. Here’s the problem: when you’re dealing with three different tech companies all at once, all trying to keep your cash in their ecosystem and push you to purchase products they make, you quickly run into issues. Your iPhone and iPad, though made by Apple, play fairly well with Chromecast, offering support through app channels. Apple doesn’t stop apps from offering support for the Cast standard, even though it competes with Airplay and the Apple TV. That said, one thing Apple doesn’t allow for is mirroring. This is an iOS issue; the software allows for Airplay mirroring, but not the Cast standard, even with the Google Home app. Then there’s the complication of trying to stream Amazon content to your Chromecast device, which as we’ve established, simply don’t play well together in the first place. The combination of Apple’s limitations on display mirroring and Amazon’s lack of Cast support means it’s basically a wash when trying to stream from your iPhone or iPad.
We have a guide here on how to mirror your iPhone using a Chromecast, and while it isn’t a perfect solution, mirroring with your iPhone to Chromecast isn’t impossible if you insist on using your phone to stream Amazon Prime to your television. Still, that solution requires a PC or Mac to mirror the content from your phone to your computer to your television, so you’d be better off simply using that computer to mirror using a tab interface with the built-in Cast support in Chrome. If you’re concerned about using a computer that’s in another room, you can try out using a Prime Video remote app. There are a number of Fire TV-specific iOS remote apps, but we recommend using Unified Remote to control your Prime Video playback on your computer. You can find out more about that app at its website here; it allows you to control playback on your PC or Mac in another room using a server app on your desktop and the remote app on your phone. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than picking up a Fire TV just for Amazon Prime video. The app is also available on Android, making it ideal for anyone looking for proper video support in Chromecast using their desktop while still controlling playback from their phone.
Will Amazon Ever Add Proper Cast Support?
To be honest, it’s hard to say at the moment. The two companies seem to be trying to be friendlier on some level. Amazon has made a commitment to add the Chromecast back to their storefront, and though the listing now exists, the device is still marked as “Unavailable” through both Amazon and third-party sellers. Amazon made the same promise about the Apple TV, which has since become available, although those companies do seem to be on better terms than Google and Amazon. Though Amazon has placed their Prime Video app back on the Google Play Store, it seems to be more about getting users onboard the streaming service rather than as an easing of arms between the two. The biggest red flag for Cast support comes from the recent war over YouTube support on the Fire TV. In many ways, it’s just hard to imagine things improving between the two companies at this time, even as Amazon announces their ready to sell Chromecast products on Amazon.
That said, there is some evidence to the contrary. For one, reddit user Filmgeekvt posted screenshots of an official Amazon response to their request asking for Cast support to be added to the mobile app. The reply, though a bit long and drawn out, seemed to be official, stating that development was already underway to add support for Chromecast to Amazon Prime’s Instant Video applications (whether this would be limited to Android or come to both Android and iOS is unclear). Sent in the heat of Google pulling out of offering YouTube on Amazon’s services, it makes sense that Amazon would be scrambling to offer some kind of reconciliation offer in the form of proper cast support. Around the same time, we also saw Amazon’s Music application on Android begin to offer support for Chromecast devices, something that had previously been ignored from the company. Whether anything substantial will come from these reports remains to be seen, but for the time being, it’s worth holding out a little hope as we wait for Amazon to finally listen to the demands of their consumers and add support for a major streaming protocol to their applications.
It might go without saying, but it’s clear that Amazon and Google have it out for each other right now. This has been going on for years, as both companies battle back and forth over their own visions for where tech is going. Amazon forked Android to create their Fire line of devices, including the Fire TV, and even designed their own Amazon Appstore for those tablets and streaming boxes. The fight has only gotten more serious since the launch of Amazon’s Alexa voice service and Google’s own Assistant, which clearly compete directly against each other, causing problems between the two companies. As both companies—mainly Amazon—begin to make small moves towards reconciliation, including most notably, adding Prime Video back to the Play Store and adding Chromecast support on Amazon Music, it’s entirely possible that we begin to move to a point where the two tech giants make up and begin to allow Prime Video to work properly on both Android and iOS. Until then, your best bet is to use a laptop or desktop running Chrome to stream Prime Video to your television. It’s not ideal, but it is the best experience we’ve seen on the device to date, and really the only smart choice for iOS users, who will need to use a computer to mirror their mobile devices anyway. No matter how you choose to stream Prime Video to your Chromecast, rest assured that we’re closer than ever to full Cast support for Amazon’s video service.