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Chromecast shines even brighter with new Plex features

Pushing towards its first birthday, Chromecast just keeps getting better. Once hindered by a serious lack of app compatibility, the streaming dongle took flight with the additions of three cloud platform apps in December, the crux of which was the popular Plex Media Server. Today, Plex just got a little better, adding free casting of your content to Chromecast, and new abilities for iOS users for music and photo sharing.

For those unfamiliar, Plex Media Server is a popular app that allows users convenient access to all of their stored media content, including photos, music and videos, from nearly anywhere with an Internet connection, and on nearly any device. Up to this point, users have had to pay for a monthly access to PlexPass, which costs a less-than-stifling $4/month, for the ability to stream to Chromecast. But today, Plex opened up streaming capabilities for all of its users, as well as allowing the iOS-faithful to cast music and photo albums stored in Plex’s folders to the big screen, all with a few taps of their iPhone.

In addition, those who have shelled out the extra dough for PlexPass today gained the ability to easily share any photos directly from their iPhone’s photo album, which will magically land in Plex’s photo folder(s) via automatic wireless upload. And when it comes to Chromecast, these new Plex options are just the beginning.

As we reported earlier, Google has been working closely with software developers, recently hosting a “hackathon” for 40 developers from 30 countries to see what Chromecast-unleashed could do. But the real party started in early February, when Google opened up the entire software developer kit (SDK) for the device to the public at large, giving the brilliant brains of the programming world the keys to the Chromecast kingdom, allowing them to bust out what is likely to be a flood of apps and new abilities for the device.

And not a moment too soon. Roku, one of the other top dogs in the set-top crowd, was a Plex regular long before Chromecast, and just put out its own rival to the Chromecast in the form of a revamped Streaming Stick, with access to all of the service’s 1,200 apps, for only $14 more than Chromecast’s $35 price tag. Add in a forthcoming new Apple TV, and things are looking pretty good for the cord-cutter crowd when it comes to cheap and convenient streaming options.

Plex’s new features are just one more way to reinforce Google’s plans for its capable dongle. As competition rises from all sides, the future of streaming is looking bright indeed.