Bundled as part of the Chromecast software, you now get a customisable screensaver called Backdrop, which kicks in whenever you are not casting something to your device. It’s well worth taking a few minutes to set it up and turn your TV into a HD slideshow with clock, weather and photo feeds built in. The process is essentially the same for Android and iOS users, although depending on what firmware version you have sometimes extra options are available to one system before the other.
When you very first set up your Chromecast, you should have received a prompt as part of the setup process asking if you want to turn on Backdrop, if you missed this then just open the Chromecast app, at the top left click to open the navigation menu and choose “Backdrop”. Backdrop will want you to have a Google account, sign in and select your Chromecast from the menu. If you do have more than one Chromecast in the house, you can choose which ones use the Backdrop. Carefully read the Backdrop terms and conditions (like you always do) and click “Allow” to activate your Backdrop. Now every time you turn on your Chromecast, it will begin to display the Backdrop screensaver.
Now to customise it. Open Backdrop in the Chromecast app, so your device mirrors what is on the Chromecast, and click the wheel at the top right to open the Backdrop preferences screen. Here you should see options to turn on and off Photos, Weather, Art, News, Satellite Images, Featured Photos and which Chromecasts show your Backdrop. Remember these preferences are associated with your Google account, not your Chromecast, but can then be applied to as many Chromecasts as you like.
Photos currently are limited to Google+ albums. If you are not in the habit of using Google+ to share photos, it is very simple to set up an album in Google+, you could set up one especially for Chromecast Backdrop, and anything you upload will be added to the images the screensaver uses.
Weather displays a simple forecast icon and temperature reading, you need to allow your Chromecast to pick up on your location for this to work correctly. As with all the settings, clicking on the setting opens up extra options, in the case of Weather it just allows you to choose Centigrade or Fahrenheit as a temperature reading.
Art, Satellite and Feature photos all pick up HD images from various sources like NASA and the Google Cultural Institute. You can toggle each gallery on and off depending on the sort of images you prefer. Your Chromecast will then pick up these preferences and cycle through them on your TV screen.
If you have multiple users in the house, you can all set up your own Backdrop preferences for each Chromecast, then the Chromecast will mix together the user preferences, pulling images from all Google account associated with it, a nice feature for shared households. Just make sure there’s nothing on your Google+ photo albums you aren’t happy to share on the big screen, remember once you sign in, the Chromecast will display private as well as public Google+ albums.
One nice little addition is the ability to ask Google “Ok Google, what’s on Chromecast?” and it will give you more information on whatever image is currently displayed on your Backdrop, a handy way to end any family arguments about what exactly it is you are looking at, you have to be quick though before the image moves on.
Future updates are promised, giving the Chromecast another ever expanding feather in it’s cap.
[Image via Russ Payne]