Vizio Smartcast differs from the pack in a big way: it's the only application on our list actually made by Vizio for their SmartCast platform. If you're unfamiliar with SmartCast, here's a quick breakdown. In 2016, Vizio decided to completely change up their entire television platform, from the included TV apps to how you controlled your television set. Instead of using a physical remote control and built-in smart apps on their televisions, Vizio shipped their sets with included 6" Android tablets. The tablets weren't, by any means, amazing—they included a 720p display and an unnamed "quad-core" processor—but they also featured an IR blaster and a fully-functional remote application for your television, along with Vizio's SmartCast platform. SmartCast was a really innovative way of watching media on your screen—instead of including built-in apps for Netflix, Hulu, and any other video platform you could want, SmartCast was spun off of Google's own Cast system, meaning any app with Cast support could beam video from the included tablet, your phone, your laptop, or nearly any other web-included device.
In 2017, Vizio reverted back to including physical remotes with a built-in app hub for browsing, using, and selecting the apps right from your TV. According to Vizio, consumers had not taken to their Cast idea quite as much as they'd hoped, so they created a middle ground—new Vizio apps would still be based on the Cast system, but you could select the video from your phone or your television using the remote. All in all, it was a great example of Vizio not only innovating with their Cast idea, but listening to consumers and adding functionality back into their sets for 2017.
So if you're using a Vizio set from 2016 or 2017, you might want to check out the official Vizio SmartCast app for your TV set. While it may not be as fully-functioning as a traditional remote replacement like some of the other apps on this list, you don't have to have an IR blaster built into your phone to be able to control the Cast functionality in your set. You can use the app to control both the audio and the video displays of your television, making it a great secondary backup to the included tablet or remote control for your TV.
Unlike our last two picks, Vizio's SmartCast app does include some neat extra features for their Cast-enabled sets. The app features a universal search function, allowing you to search multiple platforms for movies, TV shows, and anything else you'd want to watch on your display. In addition to universal search, there's also voice search capabilities built right in, so you can say your favorite actor or movie series instead of having to type it out on your device. Maybe my favorite feature: being able to create queues out of your watchlist or collections of movies and TV shows, bringing Netflix-like autoplay to nearly any platform of your choosing.
SmartCast isn't for everyone, quite literally. Only a few sets from 2016 and 2017 support the application, so you'll have to make sure your set supports SmartCast before you install the application on your phone or tablet. Still, if you're lucky enough to own one of the TVs that support the SmartCast platform, this is a must have app for your device, even if your phone doesn't have an IR blaster built-in.