At today’s Google event, the company announced a refresh to the Chromecast as well as a new second Chromecast Audio device. The updated Chromecast will continue to be a $35 HDMI device for receiving content from phones and tablets. It has a new look which resembles a disc instead of a stick, with a flexible HDMI connector, which Google says will reduce interference by causing the device to hang further away from the TV.
The only significant hardware change with the new Chromecast comes in the form of wifi enhancements. The new device bumps up wifi support to 802.11ac and comes with three different antennas for optimized streaming. The device also now features a function called “Fast Play” which, much like the ASAP feature found on all Fire TV devices, will begin downloading content it thinks you’ll watch before you press play in order to reduce buffering wait times.
The Chromecast app has received a refresh and can now show aggregate information from the different apps you have installed on your device in order to show you a single stream of what you can cast to the Chromecast. Google says there are now “thousands” of apps that support casting, including new additions like Spotify and Showtime being announced today, while Sling TV, NBA, and MLS apps are said to be coming in the next few weeks.
In addition to refreshing the Chromecast, Google announced a new second device called the Chromecast Audio which will also cost $35. This new device is setting out to do for dumb speakers what the Chromecast did for dumb TVs. The new device connects to speakers you already own through either a 3.5mm audio jack, RCA jacks, or an optical input. Once connected to your wifi network, Chromecast Audio will stream music from your phone, tablet, or PC. The device also supports multiroom audio to sync multiple speakers in your home.
Google hardly mentioned Android TV at today’s event. They consider the Chromecast to be the device people want today and that Android TV is more a bet for the future. With today’s Chromecast refresh, the device remains a great accessory for your phone or tablet, but has not moved any closer to being your main TV interface.