Chromecast, Google’s $35 TV peripheral that enables users to stream media from a computer or smartphone to a TV, began supporting screencasting from Android phones this week. Newer Android phones such as the HTC One M8, Galaxy S5, or any Nexus devices can now instantly mirror what’s on the phone’s screen to the TV, just like the Apple TV does with Macs and iOS devices.
This is a huge step forward for Chromecast, which has been selling well but has gained little foothold over the household media center or office space because of its lack of features. Since its release a year ago, the developers have added a number of new features, including a plethora of video streaming services like HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix, and others. However, perhaps the most powerful option missing for many users—both for home and business use—was screencasting (regularly called mirroring), or sharing what’s on the connected device’s display directly on the TV monitor. For that feature, you previously needed an Apple TV and a Mac computer, iPad, or iPhone.
Mirroring Evens the Playing Field
With mirroring, Chromecast is now poised to take on the Apple TV in every way. It supports third-party apps, while the Apple TV is stringently locked down by Apple. Chromecast can mirror not just Android phones and tablets, but also the Chrome browser from any type of computer, regardless of the operating system. Apple does have an upper hand here though: through Apple’s AirPlay, Mac computers can mirror everything, while Chromecast can currently only mirror the Chrome browser or a supported app.
Yet with the massive price difference between the two devices—$35 for the Chromecast versus $100 for the Apple TV—the only reason to buy Apple’s device is if you already use Apple products exclusively. Before, Apple TV’s additional functions gave it an advantage; today, it’s on almost level playing ground with Google’s significantly less expensive and far simpler device. Chromecast’s ability to stream from a device without the need of a network (or an Apple TV console, for that matter), and the fact that it’s the size of a USB dongle and requires only a small USB cable for power makes it much more convenient for business use and travel.
Apple is expected to reveal new products in September, including the next iPhone, though it’s unclear whether that’ll include a new Apple TV. The current third-generation TV hasn’t been significantly updated since 2012, so it’s very possible that Apple will have a newer version to reveal in advance of the holiday season. Then again, Apple is also expected to reveal not just a new iPhone, but iPad mini, iPad Air, an all-new smartwatch, and possibly a few other products. The Apple TV has always been considered a “side project” for the company.
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