While Apple’s AirPlay is a great way to connect your iPhone, iPad and Mac to your TV for wireless playback, it isn’t the only option available. Google offers Chromecast, a budget-friendly alternative to AirPlay that also enables wireless playback across iOS and macOS, along with Windows and, of course, Android.
But how do you use Chromecast on your iPhone or Mac? Don’t worry, here we’ll explain everything you need to know about connecting an iOS or macOS device to Chromecast. If you've got an Apple TV, you might be more interested in how to use AirPlay.
What is Chromecast?
Before we go into the specifics of connecting an iOS or macOS device to Chromecast, let’s first explain what Chromecast is, and why you might not need to head out and buy one.
Chromecast was introduced way back in the summer of 2013, and enabled a way for users to wirelessly stream content to their TV, much like Apple’s AirPlay – but there are a few differences between the two.
The main difference is to do with the limitations of using Chromecast with iOS when compared to Android. While many Android phones offer a way to mirror the device’s display to Chromecast, it’s currently not possible for iOS users. We expect this is in part due to limitations set by Apple’s App Store regulations, and, of course, Apple wants iOS users to use its own built-in option, AirPlay.
It's also worth noting that Google's cloud-based game streaming service, Stadia, is due out in the coming months, and will be accessible via a Chromecast device plugged into your TV.
If you're yet to pick one up, the third-gen Chromecast be found from the likes of Currys PC World, Argos, John Lewis and of course Google for only £30. For those that want a little more, Google also offers the 4K HDR-enabled Chromecast Ultra for £69.
But before you go out and buy one, it’s probably worth checking your TV owner’s manual first as many recent smart TVs offer built-in Chromecast at no extra cost. It also comes as standard on some media streamers, like the 4K-enabled Nvidia Shield.
Once you’ve got your hands on a Chromecast, setup is as easy as plugging it into your TV and following the on-screen instructions. It’s once the setup has been completed that things start to get a little more interesting.
How to use Chromecast on iPhone
So, you’ve got your Chromecast set up – now what? While AirPlay is built into iOS, Google must approach Chromecast support in a different way. While there’s a Chromecast app available for iOS, it only offers the ability to edit settings on the Chromecast itself – connect to a different WiFi network, etc. Instead, Chromecast playback is offered on a per-app basis, with the developer of the app having to specifically code in Chromecast support.
Which iOS streaming apps offer Chromecast support? While there’s a growing list, here are a few of our favourites:
We’ll be using Netflix as an example to explain how to connect your iOS device to Chromecast, but rest assured that the process is almost identical across all supported apps.
So, first things first, download the Netflix app and sign in to your account. Once signed in, you should notice a Cast icon in the top-right hand corner of the app - it looks like a TV with waveforms in the bottom-left hand corner, and is hard to miss. If you can’t see the icon, make sure that your Chromecast is powered on and is connected to the same WiFi network as your iPhone.
Once the icon appears, simply tap it and select the appropriate Chromecast from your list of devices (if you’ve only got a single Chromecast then it should automatically connect). Once the connection has been established, the Cast icon should turn blue.
Once connected, simply browse the vast selection of TV shows and Movies that Netflix has to offer – don’t worry, unlike with Netflix’s offline viewing feature, Chromecast playback is available with the entire Netflix library. Once you’ve found the TV show or movie you want to play on your TV, tap on it as if you were going to watch it on your phone.
It should then cast to your TV, offering playback control via your iOS device – although not via the lock screen as is possible with local iOS media playback.
As mentioned above, the process is similar across all Chromecast-enabled apps – simply tap the Chromecast icon to connect to your device, then select the media you’d like to play on your TV.
How to use Chromecast on Mac
While iOS Chromecast support is fairly straight forward, the waters are slightly muddier when it comes to Mac support. Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything, but before we go any further it’s probably worth mentioning that you must use Google Chrome to Cast via Mac, so download that if you haven’t already got it. There’s no other alternative, sorry Safari users!
Some website offer native Chromecast support, including the likes of Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies and Google Play Music. Those that offer native Chromecast support offer a Cast icon within the site itself, as opposed to the one featured on Chrome’s toolbar. If you try to use the Cast button on the toolbar when a website has native support, it’ll direct you to use the Cast button on the site instead.
We’ll be using BBC iPlayer as an example for now, but as mentioned above, the process is fairly universal across all supported websites. Once you’ve found the TV show or movie on Netflix that you’d like to watch on your TV, start playing it locally on your Mac. You should notice a Cast button on the right-hand side of the media controls, next to the button to make the video full-screen. Click on it and select the Chromecast you’d like to Cast to.
Your Mac should then connect to the Chromecast and your selected TV show or movie should begin playback shortly after. As with iOS devices, your Mac will offer media playback controls via the Netflix website. Fun fact: you can still browse the web on other Chrome tabs, check emails or even put your Mac to sleep.
While that’s the best way to Cast media to your TV from your Mac, there is an option available for websites that don’t officially offer Chromecast support – although it’s not perfect.
Simply click on the three dots in the top-right hand corner of the Chrome browser to access the Settings menu, then select “Cast…” and the appropriate Chromecast to mirror the website to your TV. A Cast icon should appear in the toolbar, and should turn blue to signify that it’s connected to a Chromecast. FYI: you can right-click the icon and select “Always show icon” to keep it in your toolbar if required.
This method works best with text-based sites (like ours) as issues arise when trying to play unsupported videos via Chromecast. When trying to Cast websites with unsupported videos, there are various problems: while you may be able to cast embedded videos, the audio track won’t be sent to the TV and will play via your Mac’s speakers. If you do try to enable full-screen mode, the video completely stops on the TV and will instead display the site with no video, while the video plays full-screen locally on your Mac.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t totally down to Google – website developers have the authority to not only improve the Cast functionality, but to completely block it from being used too.
Now you know more about Chromecast, take a look at our Apple TV vs Google Chromecast Ultra comparison to see which is best for you.