Google directly ruined its brand new YouTube experience for older Chromecasts

Last year, Google rolled out an updated app-like experience for YouTube on Chromecast. Unfortunately, for anyone who owns one, Google has paused this app’s ability to sign in to your Google account. This means you can’t see your personalized recommendations in it, or browse things like your playlists or categories. If you’re using the snazzy new app experience to select videos, you’ll have to watch ads, even if you pay Google a subscription to remove them. In short, the new YouTube app on an older Chromecast is now a substandard experience, and Google even says customers who complain the change was “on purpose”.

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You may remember when the “full app” rolled out late last year and provided an Android TV-like YouTube app for older Chromecast devices. This included the ability to use a remote control to navigate the app or use your phone to select videos, to complement the old cast-only system that required you to select a video on another device.

It was a polarizing change, as some liked the simplicity of the older cast-only system and user interface, which was free from superfluous detail and distractions – all it could do was act as a receiver for content you sent have sent it. Like it or not, the new version looks like the YouTube app on other platforms, with a richer-featured remote control interface that’s visually more concerned with recommendations and options.

Whatever you think of the new app, it’s been working as planned for the past six months or so. But recently we’ve seen reports that the app no ‚Äč‚Äčlonger allows customers to sign up. This might sound like a minor annoyance, but it causes bigger problems.

Not being able to sign in means anyone using the on-device “app” experience for YouTube on an older Chromecast is essentially using a generic free account. That means they’re missing customizations or recommendations that might be linked to their viewing history. And if they use the app to choose content, it means they have to see YouTube ads, even if they pay Google a subscription to have them removed.

I should stress that if you’re casting content from the YouTube app to a Chromecast the old-fashioned way, it still works as before and those with a premium subscription won’t see ads when playing content this way. But if you like and use the new app, it’s broken. Worse, according to the YouTube Twitter account, this change is intentional.

In just over six months, Google intentionally broke and downgraded its brand new YouTube experience for its older Chromecasts. That must be some kind of record.

Testing this change was a surprisingly disgusting experience. Many of you may not be aware of this, but you can no longer set up a Chromecast from a Pixel. We’ve reached out to Google to specifically confirm why that is (if I’m guessing, I’ll bet it’s because Google is still having a fit and refusing to license Sonos’ patents), but if you try to set up a Chromecast from a Pixel, or just plug in one that’s been living in a box and no Wi-Fi for a while, you’ll get a not particularly verbose error that will take you to an extremely unhelpful support page references, which is just pointing you out in a roundabout way. Instead, try using a phone other than a Pixel to get the job done. Using another non-Google phone works fine and as expected, but Pixel fails with perhaps the least descriptive error you’ll ever see.


Loyal Google customers with both a Pixel and a Chromecast aren’t just being screwed; Google won’t even be honest about what’s happening.

I have to assume Google is being stupid and vague here because they don’t want to acknowledge that the problem is entirely their fault, and the last thing they want to say to a doubly loyal customer is that they’d have fewer problems with one Another company’s phone.

Even without these issues, the new YouTube app is honestly a pretty bad experience in my testing. I haven’t had a chance to use this new version since the feature landed in December (my Chromecast was discontinued before that), but even on my Chromecast Ultra it’s subpar, and I can’t imagine how it could be on an older one or less powerful model. Navigating using your phone as a remote control is sometimes delayed to the point of possibly doubling inputs. Tapping the Chromecast icon in the app again to open Remote will end the casting session if you’re a little too quick or impatient. If my Z Fold3 sits too long, the software-based remote control for the YouTube app will stop working. And without account-based sync, the subscription and library tabs in the app are completely redundant and unusable.


Even if you can’t sign in, you can save settings like autoplay and restricted mode settings in my tests, although one of our tipsters claims settings aren’t persistent over time and autoplay can randomly bounce back.

Combined with taking away the ability to login and all the related features, the new YouTube app for older Chromecasts is seriously lacking in basic and expected features. Honestly, I can’t believe Google or YouTube would consider this appropriate to ship to potential paying customers. We spent a few minutes trying to come up with a group noun for “an embarrassment,” and I finally had to settle for “an embarrassment Google,” as in: “Using a pixel to set up and test the straight-up ruined the YouTube App on Chromecasts is just a Google of embarrassments.”

We contacted Google about both the change in sign-in to the app and the new restriction on using a pixel to set up a Chromecast, but the company didn’t immediately respond to either request. In the meantime, there are a few potential workarounds.

YouTube Premium customers who don’t want to suffer from ads can essentially ignore the new app and continue streaming content from their phone like they did before it existed. A community specialist on Google’s Help Forums (a title for “Google partners who bring their expertise to help nurture our communities”) says the YouTube team is aware of this issue and is working on a fix. However, the same answer claims that the login “is not supported as of our publication [the app] and it hasn’t changed since’, contrary to customer reports, so it’s not clear how authoritative this claim is. However, some customers who previously logged into multiple accounts using the app report that they have successfully logged back in after switching between them, which varies.

If you like the app and want the full experience back, you can always upgrade to something like Chromecast with Google TV, which supports the Android TV version of the YouTube app. And if this little episode makes you feel a bit skeptical about buying additional Google hardware, there are plenty of other great streaming devices out there.

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