The best Google Chromecast apps in 2021

Best Google Chromecast apps
(Image credit: Future)

If you're hunting for the best Google Chromecast apps, that's probably because the standard issue Chromecast isn't like most streaming devices. Fortunately, the Chromecast still has a ton of the best streaming apps, so you won't be short for content. 

In fact, it’s remarkably easy to pull together a list of the best Chromecast apps without feeling like any category of media was left out. You've got all the major streaming services, including one of the best streaming services with live TV, plus a top podcatcher, a media library resource and even an app that will make your TV look better.

What makes the Chromecast different from any Fire TV Stick, Roku device or even the new Chromecast with Google TV is the fact there’s no dedicated Chromecast app store. Instead, you'll need to download apps onto your phone or tablet to stream on a Chromecast. Weird, right? 

Well, now that you have a Chromecast, you're going to need to get used to this dynamic, and load your device with apps. Once you've got them, they can "cast" streams to your Chromecast. And, no, they're not sending video from device to device, the app sends stream information to your Chromecast, so it can then pull video directly from the source.

What are the best Google Chromecast apps?

Simply put, the best Chromecast apps are the best streaming apps available today. You've got HBO Max, the new titan on the block, which has been offering major movies and tons of excellent classic shows to binge — plus some solid new hits like The Flight Attendant. 

But after the obvious heavy-hitters, you're going to want to bring in some of the best Chromecast apps that cast other content to your TV. Sling is our pick for the best live TV streaming service, thanks to its customizable packages, and Pluto and Plex both help you stream without spending more money. Spotify is everywhere — even the Chromecast — so you can blast tunes from your TV. And if you're anything like us, you'll want to watch Twitch live streams and your favorite YouTube channels on your TV as well. 

The best Google Chromecast apps you can download today

1. HBO Max (Android, iOS: $14.99 per month)

Best Google Chromecast apps: HBO Max

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HBO Max — the successor to HBO Go and Now — has made a name for itself early on. So, if watching Friends isn't a big enough reason to get you to sign up, it's playing huge movies on the same day they hit theaters in 2021. Recent arrivals included Wonder Woman 1984, Zack Snyder's Justice League and Godzilla vs Kong, while The Suicide Squad, Dune and The Matrix 4 are coming soon. 

HBO Max lets users stream their favorite HBO content straight to their Chromecast from their Android or iOS device. That means you can also beam classic HBO original programming, such as Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and True Detective. With a library like this, no wonder HBO Max is one of the best Google Chromecast apps.

When it comes to exclusive TV that's more recent, you'll want to watch the Harley Quinn animated series and The Flight Attendant, two shows that just happen to both feature the same star: Kaley Cuoco. HBO Max also lets you set your own photo as your profile's avatar, making it easier to see which account to sign in under.

Download HBO Max: Android, iOS

2. Twitch (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: Twitch

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It's OK to admit that you too love watching other people play video games — as Twitch streams are more popular than ever. And the service isn't just for viewing the best of the best gamers, as Twitch serves up everything from laid-back Animal Crossing sessions, spirited home-remodelling in The Sims 4 and rambunctious blasts in Call of Duty: Warzone. All in real time, all with hosts that are looking to share the fun they're having. 

Whether you want to watch PC or console games, or just stream someone building a mechanical keyboard, there's a channel for you. Follow well-known streaming personalities, watch your friends or just dive in and see if someone's discovered a great new game that you could be playing.

You might think of the live-streaming service Twitch as something for your laptop or phone, but Twitch's Chromecast support means you can watch gamers and variety streamers alike on the best screen in your house. And it's why Twitch is one of the best Google Chromecast apps for watching gaming today.

Download Twitch: Android, iOS

3. Netflix (Android, iOS: starting at $8.99 per month)

Best Google Chromecast apps: Netflix

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The movie and TV subscription service Netflix (Android, iOS) needs little introduction. The big red streaming machine — which lets subscribers watch thousands of TV shows and movies from their desktop or mobile device — owns a space in most streamers' budgets thanks to its litany of great originals and excellent classics. 

Looking for the best Netflix shows to watch? Formula 1: Drive to Survive and The Queen's Gambit have both set our hearts racing. Bridgerton and Lupin can add a touch of class to your evening, if you're looking to steal hearts or fine art. All of these shows make Netflix one of the best Google Chromecast apps for staying up to date with pop culture.

Netflix includes Chromecast support, because Netflix is ubiquitous. This way, subscribers who don't have a Smart TV can easily cast the latest episodes and movies straight to the big screen (forget about watching on a cramped smartphone or desktop screen), while still using their mobile device for playback controls. 

Download Netflix: Android, iOS

4. Sling (Android, iOS: starting at $35 per month)

Best Google Chromecast apps: Sling TV

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You want to cut the cord right? Or are you just tired of spending more than $60 per month for the likes of Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV? Answer in the affirmative to either and you need to get Sling. Starting at $35 per month, with big channels including ESPN, Comedy Central, TNT, FX and CNN, Sling is one of the best live TV streaming services out now. 

And thanks to Sling's Chromecast support, all you do is navigate its TV Guide on your phone, tap on a show you want to watch and then tap the cast button in the top right corner. After years of the frustrations of using cable boxes and annual contracts, this kind of simplicity is exactly what we TV obsessives need and deserve.

Get the Sling Blue package if you have multiple people looking to watch TV on different devices at the same time, or want your local FOX or NBC network. Sling Orange is here for anyone who can't go without ESPN. All in all, Sling is one of the best Google Chromecast apps for anyone trying to watch live TV without breaking the bank.

Download Sling: Android, iOS

5. Pluto TV (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: Pluto TV

(Image credit: Pluto)

You don't need to buy an antenna to get free TV. Pluto includes more than 200 channels, with everything starting with live news from trusted sources such as CBS (including local programming from New York and LA), CNN and NBC News. You've even got sports content, with CBS and Fox Sports channels, as well as programming from MLB, the NFL and the PGA.

Need reality TV instead? Pluto offers whole channels dedicated to Survivor, The Amazing Race, Hell's Kitchen, Love & Hip Hop and Rescue 911 (among many others). Pluto's even got a section of channels focused on gaming and anime, so you can learn how to play top games, or watch others show off their skills. 

And it's super easy to use. Just open the channel you want to put on your TV, and look for the Cast icon. A couple of taps later and you've got free (yes, legally free) TV. This is why Pluto TV is one of the best Google Chromecast apps for anyone on a budget. 

Download Pluto TV: Android, iOS

6. Plex  (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: Plex

(Image credit: Plex)

Media collectors, it's time to get your Plex library set up and cast it to your TV. Plex is a popular and well-reviewed app and service that gives you the tools to build a media server (your own private Netflix, let's say) on your Mac or PC. 

Another reason why we love Plex is that it provides all the art and metadata you need to make your library look like an actual streaming service and not just a drive of files. You may need to look up Plex's guide for naming your files to make them show up right.

Once you've got all that sorted, you can then stream all your stuff to your TV, via your Chromecast. All you need is the Plex app, and to open a movie, show or anything else on your phone. That's why Plex is the one of the best Google Chromecast apps for movie and TV lovers.

Download Plex: Android, iOS

7. Spotify (Android, iOS: Free)

best Google Chromecast apps: Spotify

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Spotify is the king of streaming music, and since it's everywhere, you know it has to have Chromecast support as well. Spotify's winning in the market because of its ad-supported free plans, which allow you to cast its gigantic song library of 50 million tracks to your TV. Plus, Spotify's curated and algorithmically generated playlists have the edge on the competition.

Casting music from your phone to your TV also has the added bonus of (likely) increased sound quality, especially if you have a soundbar or multi-speaker setup. Of course, you can supercharge the Spotify app by paying $9.99 per month to cut out the ads and save songs to your device.

To cast songs from Spotify, just tap the Devices icon, and find your Chromecast listed alongside any speakers you've previously connected to.

Download Spotify: Android, iOS

8. YouTube (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: YouTube app

(Image credit: Dzmitrock/Shutterstock)

Since Google owns both the Chromecast and YouTube, it makes all the sense in the world that the official YouTube app can cast video. So, download the YouTube app to your phone and look for the Cast button to send your favorite YouTubers to your TV. 

For those of us who watch YouTube channels as much (or more than) some TV channels, this is an obvious and essential move. The value of casting YouTube to your TV skyrockets, though, if you're watching something that benefits from the largest screen in your home. For example, if you've been learning how to cook off of YouTube, as we have over the last years, you'll value being able to get more detail of these delicious dishes. 

And since the YouTube app itself is best on iOS and Android (the TV counterparts are OK), you're practically better off navigating YouTube on your phone than with a remote, and watching it cast to your TV. 

Download YouTube: Android, iOS

9. Pocket Casts (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: Pocket Casts

(Image credit: Pocket Casts)

You can listen to podcasts anywhere, and on any app, but Pocket Casts is an excellent podcast app because it's designed to make it really easy to use. It presents all your podcasts in a grid, so you can just tap on the show art for your favorite podcast, and find an episode. 

Tons of filters help you comb through your backlog to find the episodes you need to start with, and the Trim Silence feature can save you some time by cutting down those extra-long waits between speakers. 

And, yes, you want Pocket Casts for its Chromecast support to bring your podcasts to your TV. We listen to podcasts while we do chores around the house, and this app makes it easier to see how much time is left in the episode you're listening to, by putting that on your TV.

Download Pocket Casts: Android, iOS

10. NPR One (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: NPR One

(Image credit: NPR)

NPR One is a news, podcasts and story-telling app that doesn't just stick within National Public Radio's own content. And NPR One serves such a wide range of programming that you might wonder if you need another news app. It covers everything from the coronavirus to finance, from humor to space and from politics to pop culture.

NPR One pulls in content from other providers, so you won't need to worry about being in an echo chamber of news sources. Of course, all the NPR classics are here, so you have your Morning Edition to situate yourself, and All Things Considered for the big topics of the day.

NPR One is also fine-tuned for your interests, just like with Spotify or most music apps, it will learn what you like. Indicate your approval by tapping on the lightbulb icon or hit fast forward/skip to show you want less of something.

Download NPR One: Android, iOS

11. Google Photos (Android, iOS: Free)

best Google Chromecast apps: Google Photos

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That big, beautiful TV of yours shouldn't go to waste during the off-hours of the day. By using the Cast button in the Google Photos app, you can turn your TV into a giant (and smart) picture frame. Of course, this is turbo-charged when you connect Google Photos in the Chromecast for a slideshow, so the TV's a constantly updated portal to another moment.

The Google Assistant can even help with this, with the command "OK Google, play my [insert name here] album on my [insert Chromecast name here]." This way, your photos don't just live in the cloud. Supercharge your viewing with commands such as "Show me photos of [person's name] on [Chromecast name]" and "Show me photos of [dogs] on [Chromecast name]."

Just want to send a single photo or gallery to your TV? Just tap the Cast button, and then tap your Chromecast.

Download Google Photos: Android, iOS

12. THX tune-up (Android, iOS: Free)

Best Google Chromecast apps: THX Tune-up

(Image credit: THX)

That great TV of yours — it could be better… with the THX tune-up app. Chromecast support for this app makes all the sense in the world, as it's made to help you get your TV, projector and/or speakers operating at their best. That way, all these other apps will look and sound their best. 

The THX tune-up app adjusts multiple video and picture settings, including brightness, contrast, color and tint — so everything looks accurate. How does that work, exactly? THX utilizes the rear-facing camera on your device to recognize the color and picture output of your TV.

And you might want to use this to fix the settings on your older relatives' TVs, as it will even fix aspect ratio settings. If you have external speakers, it can also make sure they're assigned properly as well. It's one of the best Chromecast apps because it helps all your other Chromecast apps work as well as they should, so it's practically a must-have.

Download THX tune-up: Android, iOS

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.