Google’s curated collection of Backdrops—the photos that show up when your Chromecast or Android TV box is idle—is very nice, but sometimes you want to see something a little more personalized. With the Google Home app for Android and iOS (formerly the Chromecast app), you can actually change the Backdrop settings to show a lot more than just stock photography.
Before we get into how to make these changes, I want to point out that Chromecast and Android TV are two different beasts—while they do share several features, there are things that one does and the other can’t. For example, Chromecast has far more robust Backdrop customization features. We’re going to cover both devices here, but I’ll be focusing on Chromecast and mentioning the Android TV differences where applicable. Either way, the settings are fortunately found in the same place for either device, so the differences will become apparent pretty quickly as you follow along.
Like I said earlier, this will require the Google Home app. It’s available for both Android and iOS, and fortunately looks and works the same on both devices. I’ll be using an Android device for this tutorial, but you’ll be able to seamlessly mimic what I’m doing with your iOS device.
Once you have it installed, you’ll have to run through a quick set up process. As part of this, it will search for devices on your network, but don’t stress if it doesn’t find anything—it’s looking for new devices that haven’t been set up yet. If your Chromecast or Android TV box is already up and running, it’s all good.
After you’ve gone through the setup and signed in, you’re ready to rock and roll. The app starts off by telling you where to manage your device, which is exactly the setting we’re going to talk about today. Handy.
So, go ahead and tap that little icon in the upper right corner. This will load up all of the Chromecast or Android TV boxes on your network. If the device is simply running on the network and not currently signed in to your Google account, tapping on “Personalize backdrop and more” will bring up a dialog asking if you’d like to allow the device to use your Google account for features like that. Go ahead and tap “Yes, I’m in.”
This will move you into the device’s Backdrop settings, which is where all the customization options are—and where Chromecast and Android TV start to show different faces. As you can see in the screenshots below, Chromecast (left) has several options that aren’t available on Android TV (right).
Basically, on Android TV, you can either turn things on or off and select sources, where Chromecast allows you to actually dig in and make some changes. From here on out, we’re going to focus on Chromecast settings since there isn’t much more to talk about on the Android TV side of things.
Here are the options you can tweak:
- Google Photos: Allows you to select custom albums from your Google Photos collections and display them as part of the Backdrop. You can create new albums at photos.google.com—just click the “Create” link at the very top and choose “Albums.”
- Facebook: Just like with Google Photos, you can allow Chromecast to access your Facebook pictures—you can pick and choose between folders to display.
- Flickr: Have a Flickr account? You guessed it: you can show those images on your Chromecast.
- Play Newsstand: If you use Google’s Newsstand app, this is a super cool feature. Basically, it will show news headlines from your personalized feed in Newsstand on your TV. The downside here is, well, it only shows headlines—at least you can just jump into the Newsstand app and find the article.
- Curated News: Exactly what it sounds like: new Google thinks you’ll want to know about. There are no settings here—it’s either on or off.
- Art: This is a setting that’s also available on Android TV. It shows various types of art from the Google Cultural Institute, Google Open Gallery, and Street Art.
- Featured Photos: Also available on Android TV, you can see featured photos from Google+, 500px, Getty Imags, and U.S. Federal Lands. Each one can be toggled individually.
- Earth and Space: There are some breathtaking photos in this catalog from both Google Earth and NASA’s Image of the Day, so I highly recommend turning it on and leaving it that way.
Otherwise, you can also set a custom speed here, though it’s a bit weak on features as it only offers three choices: Slow (0.5x), Normal (1x), and Fast (2x). You can also have Chromecast show the weather on the screen, which is very unobtrusive—it’s down in the bottom right corner, just beside the clock.
Once you’ve set up all your customization options, you can simply back out of the app. Easy peasy.