The internet and computer-software giant Google made major waves on July 24 with the unveiling of Chromecast, its new device for streaming Internet content directly to a TV. With competitive pricing at only $35, Google has given Chromecast a firm seat on the expanding list of digital media receivers and adapters for television.
Many have speculated that Chromecast will be the death of Apple TV, the digital media receiver that has been sold by Apple Inc. since 2007. However, Chromecast’s current limited functionality and a few differences from Apple TV should prevent that from happening – at least for the present.
Chromecast is only 2.8 inches long, and it plugs directly into a television’s HDMI port. After a short installation – about 15 minutes – any mobile device or computer can be used to send content directly to the television. Chromecast connects directly to local Wi-Fi, enabling it to receive streaming information from the cloud. This enhances connection speeds and media quality. It also mirrors content from iOS and Android devices, unlike the Apple TV which is only compatible with iOS.
User reviews of Chromecast are positive, touting the device’s convenient size and simplicity of installation. However, a universal complaint about the Chromecast’s functionality is that at launch, it is only compatible with Netflix, Youtube and Google Play. Chromecast can also “cast,” or stream, the content of a user’s Google Chrome browser directly to the television. While this can be considered a workaround for streaming content from applications like Hulu or HBO, there are large differences in quality. When Chromecast streams from an app, it downloads directly from the cloud and displays the media in 1080p. However, when it streams from Google Chrome, the information transmits over the in-home wireless network, and the device only displays video in 720p. Instances of sound and video lag have also been reported in this mode.
Chromecast’s limited app connectivity did nothing to dampen the public’s demand for the device, largely due to Google’s promotional deal of an included three-month free subscription to Netflix. The device sold out less than an hour after launch. Google cancelled its Netflix promotion less than a day later, after the company ran out of Netflix promotional codes.
Apple TV is pricier than Chromecast, weighing in at $100. However, it includes compatibility with many more streaming media applications, including Hulu, HBO, and ESPN, and also mirrors content from any web browser, not just Google Chrome. Though Apple TV is only compatible with iOS devices, the popularity of iPads and iPhones means that the average household has no issue with this feature.
For now, Chromecast’s limited app functionality and poor browser mirroring quality will probably keep it from dominating the market. Apple TV, already on the market for six years, is also well-established in the consumer sector. Chromecast is an excellent value, however, and its compatibility with both iOS and Android devices is a major boon. As more developers build “casting” capability into their apps we may see a change in the tides.