Google Home is an excellent series of home devices. It sits on your countertop and plugs into your TV. It then streams whatever you want. The basic setup requires a Chromecast and your phone. However, you can build out with Google Home devices if you want to. The app keeps everything connected and shows you content on Chromecast-ready video and music apps. It’s a bit expensive to get into with the hardware. However, this is currently the best solution for a smart home style media setup and it’s the one we would recommend first if you plan on going that route. The Google Home app is free. The Chromecast and Google Home devices will cost you some money.
Jellyfin is a newer competitor to apps like Plex. It’s a media server app that connects your phone to your home PC. Basically, you store all of your media on your computer and this app lets you access that data on your phone. This one is free, open source, and doesn’t track anything you do. That gives it a leg up on many competitors. The app supports Chromecast as well as native viewing on your Android phone. Additionally, the server isn’t difficult to setup on your home PC.
Kodi (formerly XBMC) is one of the few true media center apps in Google Play. It gives the entire home screen a new interface that makes it easier to access video, music, and photos. There are also plugins that you can use to find additional content. You’ll likely want to use this on a larger screen like a tablet or perhaps an Android device that is plugged into your TV via HDMI-out. It’s completely free to download and use. Additionally, it’s open source. That means there are some variants of Kodi out there by other developers that do slightly different things. You can search Google Play for Kodi to see all of the unofficial branches and variants available, such as SBMC.
Price: Free with in-app purchases
LocalCast is an app that was originally intended as a streaming app for Chromecasts. It also supports streaming to any DLNA devices that are running on your network. It can stream almost any file, but whether or not it works on your Chromecast depends on its compatibility. Additional features include SMB support, the ability to cast PDFs onto the screen, and some types of subtitles will work as well. It’s a bit more simple than other media center apps, but it’s not a bad way to go if you need something simple. There are both subscription and single price purchases available. Go with the one you want. BubbleUPnP is another decent app that does mostly the same kind of stuff if this one just isn’t doing it.
Price: Free / $4.99 / $4.99 per month / $149.99
Plex is one of the most popular media center apps out there. The app lets you to access your Plex server on your Android device. That means you’ll have to install the Plex server on your own computer so that you can stream from it. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult. You can also subscribe to Plex Pass for additional streaming features. It’s a rock solid app that includes modern features like Android TV support. It even supports VR headsets via a separate app. It’s pretty decent and a good place to start. You will have to either subscribe to Plex Pass or make a one-time purchase to unlock all the features. Thankfully, you have some options there, including both single purchases or recurring subscriptions.
Various streaming services
Price: Free apps / Hardware costs money
Media center apps are a bit of a dying art. These days, more and more media center devices are coming out. That includes Roku, Amazon streaming sticks, and the aforementioned Google streaming solutions. That also includes Android TV, WebOS (on LG TVs), Tizen (on Samsung TVs), and others. They all usually have the same core streaming services along with native apps to play local files via a flash drive. Your best bet is to find something like this and upgrade over time. It’s worth noting that Kodi is compatible with most of these types of devices as well.
If we missed any of the best media center apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!