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Today I learned you can surf YouTube on old Chromecasts with a hidden phone remote

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Press Cast, then cast it, then hit Cast again for the option

Did you know the YouTube app on your older Chromecast has a hidden remote control that lets you surface an entire YouTube app that you can scroll?

You just need to start casting something to your TV in the YouTube app with the Cast button up top — then hit the Cast button a second time to access a menu where you’ll find a button labeled Remote. Then, you get a full D-pad to move around, a voice search button, and the all-important Back button you’ll need to back out of that video and access a full YouTube interface.

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.

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.