Chromecast is about to get a host of fun new features

Chromecast Netflix
Google’s Chromecast is quite the popular media streamer. According to the Mountain View-based company’s latest facts and figures, the malleable media dongle has sold impressively well — 17 million units to date, in fact — and managed to accrue a 20,000-strong app library. Considering the brand’s momentum, Google’s decision not to announce a beefed-up Chromecast successor at the company’s annual I/O conference was somewhat surprising. But perhaps in an effort to avoid the inevitable app fragmentation that could follow, Google’s instead choosing to focus on enhancements from which all Chromecast users can benefit: new software and development tools.

Chromecast is first and foremost a media consumption device, so it makes sense that the team at Google is focusing on making video and music playback even better. It’s introducing a new API that willl let apps like Netflix jump from one piece of content to the next seamlessly — while one video’s playing in a queue, the next can buffer in the background. Those queues will in some cases be manipulable — you’ll be able to re-order, add, and remove clips from queues, much like what’s possible in YouTube’s casting mode right now — but it will depend on the app’s back end.

The Chromecast may be a cheap piece of hardware, but it’s brimming with potential, so Google is beginning to explore new frontiers. Two new APIs, Game Manager and Remote Display, are aimed squarely at the gaming crowd. Game Manger makes it easier for developers to create multiplayer games like Google’s General Knowledge Quiz — “castable” games can now create sessions joinable by others and synchronized across players, regardless of mobile platform. Remote Display, on the other hand, is geared more towards single-player sessions — it can put interface elements like a HUD or virtual steering wheel on your television, for example.

Google has partnered with a few development houses to showcase the new capabilities. By far, the most impressive titles are Ubisoft’s Speedboat Paradise and Rolocule’s Motion Tennis. Speedboat Paradise has players navigate a tumultuous sea, displayed on TV, using their phones as steering wheels. Motion Tennis is set in a much calmer setting — a quiet grass tennis court — but potentially more demanding physically: you rally balls back and forth by swinging your phone.

The best thing about the Chromecast is its simplicity and low barrier of entry, said Google Cast Product Manager Nathan Camarillo to GamesBeat in an interview. “You don’t need to have eight GamePads lying around,” he said. “Everybody can pull a phone out of their pockets. They can initiate an app, connect to the TV, and play this great game together. They’re usually games that are easy to understand and you can learn really quickly.”

And that — along with a steady string of new services, including the recently announced HBO Now — is why Chromecast will likely continue to sell at a steady clip. A $35 dongle that handles most of the games families play on far more expensive consoles, after all, is a great value proposition.

Product Review

It may be basic, but the TicWatch E2 is all the smartwatch you need

Want a smartwatch that can track heart rate, has GPS, and interact with notifications — for cheap? Mobvoi’s Google Wear OS-based TicWatch E2 can do it all, for just $160.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

These are the best indie games you can get on PC right now

Though many indie games now come to consoles as well, there's still a much larger selection on PC. With that in mind, we've created a list of the best indie games for PC, with an emphasis on games that are only available on PC.
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Mobile

Tizen 4 arriving on Samsung’s Gear S3 and Gear Sport smartwatches

Samsung is updating the Gear S3 Classic, Gear S3 Frontier, and the Gear Sport to the newest version of Tizen 4. Along with of some little tweaks to usability and quality-of-life, Samsung has added some new features.
Product Review

Honor schools other phone makers on design with the hole-punch View 20

The Honor View 20 is Honor’s best phone to date. Why? Just look at the punch hole screen, the striking design, and the exciting 48-megapixel camera for evidence. Here’s our review.
Mobile

Mobvoi’s TicWatch E2 and S2 are the most affordable Wear OS smartwatches yet

Quality smartwatches don't have to be expensive, and Mobvoi's TicWatch is the proud paladin of that philosophy. Mobvoi's new TicWatch S2 and are both available for low prices from Amazon and Mobvoi's website.
Deals

Save up to $950 with the best smartphone deals for January 2019

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $950.
Wearables

With weeklong battery life, the new Honor Watches are a real Dream to wear

Honor has unveiled the new Honor View 20, one of the best smartphones of the year. Alongside it, however, the company also took the wraps off of the new Honor Watch Magic and Honor Watch Dream.
Mobile

2019's 10 best dating apps to help you find the perfect companion

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Mobile

Moschino glams up the 48-megapixel Honor View 20 at Paris launch

After its success with the View 10 in 2018, Honor has announced its sequel, the Honor View 20 with an entirely new type of display which has a hole-punch for the camera rather than a notch.
Mobile

Embrace your inner Dr. Frankenstein with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and this cool app

Ever wanted to make your favorite toy come alive? If so, and you have a Huawei Mate 20 Pro, then you need to grab the 3D Live Maker app and try out some augmented reality magic. Here's how to use it.
Mobile

Photograph your meal with the Foodvisor app for caloric, nutritional estimates

Many of us understand the importance of a healthy diet, but counting calories and diving into nutritional data is a lot of work. The Foodvisor app for Android or iOS gives you a calorific and nutritional breakdown of your food from a photo.