Google Cast was introduced nearly four years ago. The proprietary protocol was meant to do one thing and one thing only — stream any compatible media from your phone to a Cast-enabled device with a click of a button. And it still, functions the exact same way. No changes whatsoever. However, I’ve found, in spite of that, Google Cast is still the only “smart TV” technology that comes even close to being convenient.
When smart televisions became the talk of the town again in India, I had to review a whole bunch of them. And while doing that over the past few weeks, I came to the realization that that sort of seamless experience has yet to trickle down to this segment. Huge tiles and endless levels of panes just didn’t spell intuitive for me. And that’s fine. Devising software for non-touch screens which are being primarily operated by a remote is certainly not an easy task.
That’s why I feel Google Cast is such a brilliant platform. You see, Google Cast doesn’t, first and foremost, require you to learn a new interface. It’s already there on your phone (except if you’re one of those who still uses a Windows Phone). This is especially an advantage for first-timers like my parents. It took them only a couple of minutes to figure out the entire concept of Google Cast because there’s simply no new technology to assimilate. It’s merely an additional button on top of your favorite apps. Applications are an integral part of every digital experience today and the ones available on dedicated smart TV platforms are still in an evolutionary phase.
Google Cast, on the contrary, employs regular smartphone apps you are accustomed to. More importantly, these apps are meant for touchscreens which are arguably more efficient and quicker to operate than a physical remote. In addition to that, the transition from your phone to the television hooked on your living room’s wall is a lot more coherent in the case of Google Cast. For instance, say you are watching a video on Facebook and you’d like to project it on a bigger screen, all you need to do is hit the Cast button present at the top of the thumbnail. That’s all.
Chromecasts are also incredibly cheap when compared to any other similar devices. Its top end variant which supports 4K content costs only $69 in the United States. Its compatibility is also not just limited to your smartphone. It functions on desktops as well through Google Chrome allowing you to cast your entire screen without any hassles whatsoever.
Of course, Chromecast’s most glaring shortcoming is content discovery. A lot of television viewers just don’t know what they want to watch. Smart televisions come with an interface which is designed to specifically facilitate that need. And that’s where Chromecasts falls a little short. I say “short” because Google has updated the Home app for suggesting shows and videos from various platforms like Netflix and YouTube.
Google, however, might be gearing up to solve that problem with its forthcoming rumored product. As per a report, the company is working on a new Android TV dongle which will function a lot like how Amazon’s Fire TV Stick does. It’s essentially an upgrade designed for users who are still stuck with a Chromecast and find other platforms too complicated. Performance, although, will be a more critical motivation behind this native product. A lot of Android-powered televisions are buggy and slow which indirectly tarnishes Google’s image in the smart TV space. The device could be showcased later this year at Google’s annual hardware event in October. Something I look forward to in addition to the Pixel 3.