The hype over the Microsoft Display Dock and the potential for using Windows 10 phones as mini-laptops reminded me that in fact you’ve been able to do this with Android for quite some time. Any Android device running Android 4.4.2. KitKat and above is now capable in theory of casting its screen to a TV or large monitor plugged in to a Chromecast. And as of the latest Android Developers Dashboards numbers, that means over 60 percent of all Android devices. And some even had the feature as of earlier versions, but with Android M Marshmallow just round the corner, it could be well on the way to universality.
How to do it? First, make sure your Chromecast is plugged in to the HDMI port on your TV and monitor, and turned on. If you don’t have the Chromecast app already installed on your mobile phone or device, do it now, and go through the setup procedure to connect your device to the Chromecast dongle. In Lollipop, you’ll also get a Cast screen option in the settings and options menu you can drag down from the top of the device’s home screen.
Once Chromecast is open, in the latest Material-designed update version, you’ll see a home screen and menu similar to YouTube, with a list of installed apps optimized for Chromecast, and a menu at top left linking you to your Google account. Second item on the menu below the Home screen is the Cast screen/audio option. Click on this, and you’ll get an introductory slide, plus the Cast screen/audio button. On some devices (like my tablet), you’ll also get a warning saying “Screen Casting is not optimised for this device; your experience may vary.”
Assuming you can get past that warning item, you can hit the button and start screencasting. Then it’s simply a question of opening the ereader app of your choice and mirroring to the big screen. Google has also introduced a guest mode feature for Chromecast, meaning that you can even cast to a friend’s screen over their network, without using their password. In the past I’ve found lag issues when screencasting from my devices, but for ereading, this obviously is not such a problem, when the fastest action needed is a page turn.
If you want to go one step further and find an ereading solution that’s actually optimized for Chromecast like YouTube is, there aren’t many options right now. One that claims to work with the device is A Faster Reader, although this feature is apparently restricted in the free version and only available for full in the Premium version. I haven’t tried it yet, but it may be worth checking out if the basic screencasting solution doesn’t satisfy you.
If you have an older device, or for some reason only want to read on your PC screen without a Chromecast, there is another option. The free program Droid Screencast “will allow you to project the screen of virtually any Android device onto your PC Screen,” it claims, using only your USB cable. This needs Java Runtime Environment 5 or later on your PC, but it may be worth a try – if that usage scenario works for you.
Plus there’s historically been a very limited number of mobile phones – and a rather larger range of tablets – that already have a micro-HDMI socket on board. These phones have included the Droid Razr, Droid X, HTC Butterfly, various flavors of the HTC One, LG Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy Note II, and Sony Xperia S. If you ever want to track down such a device, you can go to GSM Arena and do a text search for HDMI in the specs listings. Options for the HDMI connection include mirroring to the display, but I can’t vouch for this personally, never having owned such a device.
Would you ever want to do any of this? Maybe not for your personal reading, but for sharing stories on the big screen? Perhaps reading picture books to kids? Or teaching? Or if you’re visually impaired? Yes, all of those situations could arise, and you can address them right now – without waiting for the Microsoft Display Dock.