The past few years have seen the war over set-top boxes heat up immensely. Due to a renewed focus on seemingly-endless amounts of streaming services and the cord-cutter movement spreading across the country, millions of homes have invested in devices that plug into our televisions in order for us to more-easily watch the content we want when we want it. Instead of relying on paying for thousands of ad-supported channels, we’ve moved to a streaming-online methodology, relying on those ad-free subscription services to keep us entertained instead of the older pre-scheduled methods. And this is to say nothing of YouTube, itself an entire new form of entertainment for younger audiences, with more than a billion hours of content watched per day.
Set-top boxes are great and all, but Google’s approach is one of our favorites yet. While the company has produced their own line of set-top boxes with Android TV (and before it, the underused Google TV from earlier in this decade), our favorite streaming device from the world’s most popular search company is the Chromecast, a $35 dongle that plugs into the back of your television and allows you to stream content to your device right from your iPhone or Android device. It’s a great middle ground between using a wired connection and using a full set-top box that can run you upwards of a hundred dollars to buy, all while offering you nearly every streaming option under the sun. It’s a great way to get into the streaming game with a low cost option, without having to keep track of a separate remote.
Since Chromecast can work with any smart device, regardless of whether it’s using iOS or Android, it’s easy to mirror content right from your phone to your television wirelessly over your home network. Since Chromecast is first and foremost an Android-based standard, it does have a bit more power on Google’s own operating system than on Apple’s iOS, but that isn’t to say we can’t use a couple workarounds to accomplish all the iOS-based streaming we want on our favorite $35 dongle. Let’s take a look at how this platform works in this guide to streaming and mirroring content from your iPhone or iPad to your Chromecast device.
Streaming Content from Cast-supported Apps
Overall, the most popular way to stream content from a mobile device to a Chromecast is to use apps that support the Chromecast standard for streaming right within their respective iOS app. Setting up your Chromecast device is as easy as downloading the Google Home app from the iOS app store and using it to set up your streaming device from right within your local home network. Google’s Home app will walk you right through setup of your new Chromecast device if you’re yet to set it up on your network itself, making it easy to get up and going right away.
Google’s Home app can also suggest content from other Cast-enabled apps, and you’d be shocked just how many apps on iOS support the platform. Despite starting as a Google-standard application, Cast support has rolled out among most of the popular streaming platforms available on iOS, including (but certainly not limited to) the following:
- HBO GO/Now
- Google Play Music
- NFL Sunday Ticket
That’s by no means a full list of titles available on the platform, but it is a wide selection of the content available on iOS that allows you to stream to your Chromecast device (which, in addition to the Chromecast itself, includings newer Vizio televisions, Android TV boxes, and more). There are two notable content makes missing from the above list: Apple and Amazon. Both offer their own set-top boxes or devices, and both feature their own streaming substitutes (Airplay and Allcast, respectively). Unfortunately, we don’t see either platform adding Chromecast support to their applications anytime soon. Amazon has worked hard to make sure even the Android version of the Prime Video app can’t support Cast-enabled devices, and though Apple’s Android support is largely limited to Apple Music, the tech giant has similarly refused to bring any sort of Chromecast support to Android devices—and we don’t see it coming to Apple’s own phones anytime soon.
Sending content from these apps—or any of the other Cast-supporting iOS apps available in the app store, a full list of which you can find here—is as simple as any other mirroring-type interface built into iOS. Make sure your Chromecast is awake and your television turned on. Open the app you wish to watch content from, like Netflix or Hulu. So long as your Chromecast is set up and awake, you’ll see a Cast icon appear somewhere in the top-right corner of your display on your iPad or iPhone. Tap this Cast icon, then select the Cast device to which you want to beam your content. Your Chromecast will then load the video or music directly onto your television, and you’ll be free to use your phone or tablet as you otherwise would. All of this makes it incredibly easy to watch your content how you want to watch it, without sacrificing the ability to use your phone as a messaging or social tool.
Mirroring Your iOS Device with Chromecast
Of course, if you want to mirror your phone’s display to your Chromecast, you’ll need a bit more setup than the typical Chromecast application. While most users will get more out of using the standard Chromecast mirroring option—that is to say, using an app with built-in Cast functionality as described above—you might want to mirror your phone for use with an app that doesn’t support Casting, like Apple Photos, in order to display that content on your television. This isn’t the easiest process, and if new to the platform or you plan on mirroring your phone consistently, it might be easier to invest in an Apple TV for Airplay rather than using a Chromecast with a workaround for iOS. But for some quick and dirty mirroring, a Chromecast can get the job done in a pinch.
Before we begin, you’ll need a computer running MacOS or Windows 10 that is connected to the same network as your iPhone or iPad, and your Chromecast. Make sure you have this before heading into the guide below—we’ll need it immediately.
Setting Up Your Computer
In order to mirror your phone on your computer, we’re going to have to use your laptop or desktop as a server of sorts, establishing a connection between your Chromecast device and the Airplay protocol that’s built into iOS. There are a ton of existing Airplay server applications out there that exist to help you stream your device to your computer, and there’s two major ones we recommend here. The first, Apowersoft’s ApowerMirror, allows us to automatically use Airplay to stream our phone or tablet’s screen directly onto your Windows or Mac laptop or desktop computer. There is a free version of ApowerMirror, but it does include a watermark on your stream. For some, this might not be a problem, and it’s one of the best free mirroring apps we’ve seen out there.
Our other recommendation is AirServer, one of the best options for mirroring your device if you’re looking to include sound or any other latency-sensitive application. AirServer has a seven day trial version, but to unlock the full power, you’ll have to pony up for the $14.99 full version of the app. Unlike with ApowerMirror, this isn’t a subscription-based service. That $14.99 fee is a one-time payment. Both services will work for mirroring to a Chromecast, so download the app of your choosing and follow their respective setup processes to get the device working on your end.
Mirroring Your Phone to Your PC
Once the app is installed on your computer, you’ll want to head into the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad by sliding up from the bottom of your device’s screen and tapping the Airplay icon. So long as either ApowerMirror or AirServer has been set up on your computer and is currently active, you should see an option on your computer to begin mirroring your phone right to your PC. Your phone’s screen will appear on your computer’s display, allowing you to project photos or videos on your PC’s screen.
Once you’ve made sure the settings of your mirror are to your liking—including adjusting the quality, resolution, sound, and any other settings you might need—you can move onto getting the image projected from your computer to your Chromecast.
Mirroring Your PC to Your Chromecast
Now that we have the image of your phone mirrored correctly with either ApowerMirror or AirServer, we can move onto the final step: moving the mirror of your phone from your PC to your Chromecast. In this case, the Chromecast largely works as an intermediary between your iPhone or iPad and your television. With that said, we still need to work on getting the image from your laptop or desktop to your actual television. With that in mind, here’s how to do it.
Make sure you have Chrome downloaded on your device if you haven’t done so already. You’ll need it to use Google’s own Cast system built into Chrome and mirror your laptop to your television. Once you’ve installed and logged into Chrome, make sure your iPhone or iPad mirror is active in the background on the Airplay server app of your choice. Now, tap the triple-dotted menu icon in the top-right corner of your device and find the “Cast…” option within the menu. Tapping this will open a menu that will display any Google Cast-enabled platform in the area, including Chromecast, Chromecast Audio, Google Home, or any other Cast-supported platform. You’ll want to find the Chromecast device plugged into your television and select it.
On the next screen, Cast will ask you if you want to mirror your entire desktop or just the tab open at the time. From here, select “Cast Desktop,” and you’ll see your entire desktop, iPhone mirror and all, appear on your television, all without wires. From here, you can use your iPhone as intended. Since this is a bit of a hacky-workaround, you may notice some latency in certain apps or actions. This certainly isn’t a perfect strategy, and if you’re looking for something a bit more stable, you might want to plug your Mac or PC directly into the HDMI port on your television instead of using a wireless connection and relying on Chrome to mirror your entire desktop.
Your iPhone or iPad doesn’t work perfectly with iOS, but it isn’t a total failure of a match either. Thanks to Google’s own willingness to allow Cast to work within apps instead of being built into the system from the ground up, developers have an easy time adding Cast support into their applications without too much of a struggle during development. It allows companies like Netflix and Hulu to make sure their apps have equal footing across platforms, so Android and iOS users can use the same Chromecast device under one roof to watch the newest seasons of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black without too much of a problem.
But if you’re trying to mirror your phone’s screen directly to a Chromecast instead of using an app that has Cast support built-in, it’s a bit more difficult. Thanks to limitations within iOS itself, it’s certainly more difficult to use Chromecast as a mirroring platform, especially if you don’t have some form of PC that can act as a streaming middleman. Still, we’re happy to see the ability to use a PC or Mac as an easy way to stream your iOS device to your PC, even if the solution isn’t perfect. While it might not be ideal for music, using a mirroring solution like ApowerMirror or AirServer makes it easy to display your phone on a large screen using Google’s $35 dongle, rather than Apple TV’s far more expensive set-top box.
What app do you want to see add Cast support on iOS in the future? Let us know in the comments below!