Friday, April 04, 2014

How would you describe a Google Chromecast to someone?

It's a device that plugs into your TV and connects with a phone, tablet or computer to stream audio and video to your TV. 
Ah ... I see so is it a stand alone receiver then that just needs a phone or table to act as a remote?
Well, not exactly - you see the phone or tablet needs to be connected to the internet itself and you must first run an app on that device in order to stream it to the Chromecast. 
Ah ... so the Chromecast is just acting like a remote display for your phone? 
Well, not exactly because only certain apps support the Chromecast (notably Netflix and Youtube). Most apps don't support it. 
OK, I am beginning to understand, but for those apps that do support it the content is coming from your phone and being sent to the Chromecast right? 
Well, not exactly, Once you initiate the app on your phone and send it to Chromecast then the Chromecast seems to get its own copy directly from the internet. You can put the phone to sleep and the Chromecast will keep streaming away. 
Ahh ... I see so the Chromecast really is an independent receiver then. It doesn't mirror what is on the screen of your phone or computer.  
Well not exactly because you can stream anything you see in a Chrome browser to the Chromecast and view it on your TV and in this case the content seems to come locally from your computer to the Chromecast.
Ahh... so I can browse the internet using the Chrome browser on my phone and view it in big screen on the TV?
Well .. not exactly because the mobile version of Chrome doesn't seem to support Chromecast streaming yet (may come later though - there is a beta version).
Now I am confused. What exactly does Chromecast let me do again. 
You can watch Netflix and Youtube on your TV. 
Oh .. right. But I already have several devices that let me do that? Why do I want a Chromecast?  
Well ....
Chromecast is now available in Europe and my curiosity prompted me to spend €40 to get one and try it out. It does work and provides us with yet another way to watch Netflix but I am having a hard time explaining to my family exactly what Chromecast does. The relationship between Chromecast and the connected phone or computer is muddy and the functionality of Chromecast varies depending on which device you use to control it. I cannot help feeling that Chromecast would be a much easier gadget to explain and promote if it was just a plug in Android device using the TV as a display and a phone or tablet as a remote. I have no doubt Google have their own inscrutable reasons for making Chromecast the way it is but this uncertainty over what exactly it does is standing in the way of it becoming a default media device in our household.

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