Since the start of this year, Google has been testing a new YouTube app/experience for the regular Chromecast. The new YouTube Cast app looks to be widely rolled out for the 3rd-gen Chromecast and Ultra this week.

Update 12/3: After wide availability began on Wednesday, Google last night made the ability to “use your phone as a remote to cast and control the YouTube app on your TV” official with a support document. On using your existing smart TV remote, YouTube explains:

  • Try to use your TV remote to control your cast experience. Most TV remotes are supported without further setup.
  • If your remote doesn’t work, check the instructions manual for your smart TV to learn if it’s CEC supported. If so, follow the instructions in the manual to turn on CEC and try to use your remote to control the cast experience.

Original 12/1: In March, some Chromecast users started seeing a new experience when Casting YouTube from their phone. Those with streaming dongles running the original Cast platform — not Android/Google TV — received a richer video player with resolution controls, closed captions, and the ability to add to playlist/queue.

More importantly, the generic splash screen was replaced by the YouTube homescreen found on the Android TV app and other smart television sets. This includes a navigation rail on the left (Search, Home, News, Music, Gaming, Movies & Shows, Subscriptions, Library) and rows of videos. 

You can navigate through this UI with a remote built into the YouTube app on your phone. There’s a D-Pad with a back button and voice search. It can be accessed by tapping the Cast icon in the app’s top bar and appears underneath the regular volume slider. Some physical TV remotes are also compatible.

This UI rolled out to more users in July. As of this week, many users are encountering the new YouTube app on the Chromecast Ultra and 3rd-gen Chromecast released in 2018. However, it is not appearing on older models we checked today. 

Overall, it makes for better lean-back browsing, but those that do not have a Premium subscription are encountering more ads.

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3rd-gen Chromecast, Ultra gets new YouTube ‘app’ w/ homescreen, phone remote [Update: Official]
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