Sunday, 30 March 2014

Google Chrome cast - initial thoughts

*updated: my views of chromecast have dropped as I've used it a bit more. I hoped that Google's music app would let me play the music on my Android device through my TV.  But first you have to log into a Google account in the music app before the chromecast icon is displayed in the music app.  And then,  if you play a track that wasn't bought through Google it says "can't play sidelined music."  So, even though I can play non Google music on my phone using  Google's player (Eg loaded from my pc or bought from Amazon mp3), chromecast limits itself to playing Google bought music. I'm sure other third party apps will step in but I'm surprised at Google - this is more restrictive than apple - where any music on your Ipad (Eg from Amazon) can be played on your TV using the Apple tv.

Also, I've now had to unplug the chromecast dongle twice now,  due to apps freezing. I do wish Google would introduce some quality control - though if I wait long enough I'm sure many of the app providers will fix their apps (does raise that slight niggle at the back of my mind about Google's apparently laissez faire approach to security of apps on the play store eg the recent issues with WhatsApp on Android). Also,  when unplugging the chrome cast dongle I was surprised at how hot it was after only a couple of hours of use.


Got a chrome cast dongle. Overall,  for £30 chromecast is a great way of getting somethings from your Android device to your TV.  Doesn't work as universally with apps as the Apple TV, and perhaps a few edges to improve. However, given it's 3/8 the price of an apple TV it's great value.

Setup :

I stuck the chromecast dongle into an hdmi socket on my TV, downloaded the chromecast app onto my Android phone (lg flex) and connected the chromecast dongle to my wifi network (via instructions on my phone's screen). The set up was very smooth. Though I had hoped I wouldn't have to plug the chromecast dongle into a power socket as well as the TV,  but heigh ho.

Sending stuff from my phone to my tv:

1) I started by using  YouTube on my phone and clicking on the chromecast icon in YouTube got the video and audio on my TV -  great stuff.  For comparison I did the same video with the Ipad and apple to- very similar though slightly better audio with the Apple TV (might be the hardware Ipad vs lg flex). I was surprised to see the chromecast icon on the Ipad in YouTube -  tried it and that worked very well.

2) Next tried showing photos on my TV. Sadly no luck at first, but after downloading a third party app it worked well (not as good as the Ipad - it wouldn't use full screen and was a bit slower to show the next photo).

3) BBC Iplayer - works perfectly on my TV from the Ipad,  and worked very well with chromecast from my Android device (possible slight lag and I had an application error, but only once).

4) I tried a few more apps like audible on my Android device but no luck. I'll have to get more third party apps or possibly a future version of Android or something that will be built into future android devices.  By contrast I can get whatever appears on the Ipad on my TV with the Apple TV (Eg art apps to show paintings).

I'm a bit concerned how quickly my phone is draining power since using chromecast (surpringly, the rate of power drop seems to have continued even when I thought I'd disconnected from chromecast).

I never really understood why apple didn't do more to promote one of the best things to have if you already have an iPhone or Ipad ie the Apple TV.  It means you can put pretty much anything on your TV from your Ipad/iPhone eg iplayer, video,  audio/music, photos, games,  PowerPoint presentations ...    (or why they didn't take the step of allowing two or more people to use their iPhones/Ipad to interact on a shared TV Eg for games (some games work where it's built into the game,  and also where you are collaborating using 2 devices through a single web site Eg for collaborative painting,  collaborative mind maps...). A bit of advertising by Google 
and chromecast could go a long way. And with YouTube,  Google has a ready made channel it can use at any time. Shorter term it would help if Google would make it easier to find chromecast ready apps (there are third party apps to help find chromecast ready apps,  but the one I looked at needed some unusual permissions that I wasn't happy to give).

NB for people who already have an apple tv,  there are apps on the Google playstore that can throw content to your TV,  from your Android device via your Apple tv.  I haven't used these (I use my Ipad at home for content throwing),  but having a quick go with my lg flex and the app 'zappo tv' it seemed to work with YouTube, music,  videos and photos on my Android phone.  Though it seemed to be a bit slow at times when changing what was being shown on the TV. There are also apps that let use your Android device as a controller for your Apple tv.

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