Originally, the Google Chromecast HDMI dongle required you to control it largely from your phone, “casting” each and every video you wanted to watch to your TV screen instead of browsing — until the 2020 Chromecast with Google TV added its own physical remote. But apparently, that changed. Chrome Unboxed reported in February that the YouTube app on Chromecast had added a browsing experience with the hidden remote, and sites like 9to5Google and Android Police are now reporting that it’s broadly rolling out to older dongles like the third-gen Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra. That’s a nice bonus if you recently nabbed the Ultra for $22.22 in the Stadia sale. I can’t confirm when it rolled out, but I do see that Google’s support page has officially added instructions for using the remote, something that the Wayback Machine tells me wasn’t yet there back on, say, October 5th, and the company tweeted about the feature yesterday.
I discovered today that you can use a disguised phone remote to access YouTube on outdated Chromecasts. Press Cast, then Cast it, then Cast it again to activate the option. Did you know that the YouTube app on your older Chromecast contains a hidden remote control that allows you to browse through a whole YouTube app? Simply use the Cast button on the top of the YouTube app to start casting content to your TV, then press the Cast button a second time to enter a menu containing a Remote button. Then you get a full D-pad to navigate about with, as well as a voice search button and the all-important Back button to exit that video and access the main YouTube interface.
The phone remote is a little laggy compared to using a dedicated remote or even using an iPhone to control an Apple TV, but it works fine so far on my Chromecast Ultra. I’d probably use it a lot if I valued YouTube’s recommendations more. (I don’t understand why it keeps recommending videos I’ve already watched and ones from many years ago.) I wish it were available in Netflix, where I do tend to scroll a lot, but I didn’t see the option there.