Google frees Chromecast from Wi-Fi bonds, adds screen mirroring, ‘Backdrop’ and more

chromecast freed from wi fi bonds adds screen mirroring apps
At Google I/O 2014 today, Google announced some forthcoming updates to its popular Chromecast streaming dongle for televisions. In addition to a new app discovery engine that will work across iOS, Android and Chrome devices, Google is cutting the Wi-Fi ties that require users to be on the same network as the Chromecast they wish to ‘cast’ to, adding a baked-in screen mirroring options, and offering a new ‘Backdrop’ feature for display customization.

Casting goes social

Presently, if you want to cast content to a Chromecast dongle, your device must be on the same Wi-Fi network the Chromecast is on. But that’s about to change, as Google announced that, soon, users will be able to cast to any Chromecast or Android TV within close proximity, no Wi-Fi connection needed.

Google said it would use ‘various technologies’ to verify that someone is, indeed, in the same room as the television they wish to cast to, but as a fallback measure, a PIN will be displayed on-screen through the Chromecast which will allow users to authenticate themselves and get casting, free of Wi-Fi bonds.

Baked-in screen mirroring for Android devices

Until now, Android device users have had to employ the use of a third-party app to mirror anything from an Android phone on a big-screen TV through the Chromecast. That app cost money, and worse, the “mirroring” it offered suffered from occasional latency and was restricted to photos, music and stored video. In other words, it wasn’t true screen mirroring.

Now, thanks to an update for Android devices expected later this year, true, real-time screen mirroring will be a reality. In a demonstration at the I/O developer conference, Google showed an Android phone’s screen mirrored in real time, stutter free. Even when the demonstrator opened up the camera app, the video feed was shown instantaneously and without hiccup. From the live demonstration, this appears to be huge coups for Google, as screen mirroring from mobile devices has, thus far, been an involved, often expensive process.

The screen mirroring feature will be introduced first to the following list of devices, with support for more Android devices coming soon.

  • HTC One M7
  • LG G2
  • LG G2 Pro
  • Nexus 4
  • Nexus 5
  • Nexus 7 (2013)
  • Nexus 10
  • Samsung Galaxy Note3
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Samsung Galaxy S5

Your TV, as a picture frame

One of the chief complaints uttered by Chromecast users since the device’s introduction is that there was no easy way to control what the dongle displayed when TV wasn’t being watched. Now, with the addition of what Google is calling “Backdrop,” users will be able to stream artwork or personal photos to the television, essentially turning the television into a giant picture frame.

google chromecast backdrop

For personal photos to be displayed, the images will have to be stored in a Google + account. Other images, such as well-known works of art, will be available directly from Google, and categorized under different headings, such as Art, Places, Lifestyle, Weather, and News. Google has also tweaked mobile device integration so that users can use voice search to find out more about the art that is being displayed on the screen.

A better way to find Chromecast apps

Presently, finding Chromecast-compatible apps is a real chore. But Google aims to change that with a new discovery system that will work across Android, iOS, and Chrome devices. The update is highlighted by a new Chromecast app store within Google Play, where all available Chromecast apps will be searchable by category and/or through the use of filters. Google stated the new discovery engine will be available “later this year.”

Are more Chromecast apps on the way?

Google spent plenty of time discussing the Chromecast’s successes and milestones, and highlighted its increasing useage. The company also reminded developers that its Chromecast SDK (software developer kit) is completely open, prodding developers to get on board. Though Chromecast app development has been a little slow to start, perhaps seeing how widely used the device has become will be the encouragement necessary to bring some more original apps to the table. Only time will tell, but at this point it is clear that the Chromecast is no stepping-stone technology, but a device Google has clear plans on leveraging heavily going forward.

Home Theater

Smart speakers the likely cause of Chromecast Audio’s untimely demise

Goodbye Chromecast Audio, we hardly knew you. Google confirms rumors that it has killed Chromecast Audio, the inexpensive wireless music streamer that let people breathe new life into their old audio systems.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Deals

Take a look at the best 4K television deals for January 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Home Theater

Our quick-and-easy guide to programming an RCA universal remote

If you're tired of using a million different remotes in your home theater, office, or living room, you'll likely be interested in a single RCA universal remote. Here's how to program it for your system.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Music

Tidal faces legal jeopardy over fake stream numbers accusation

In another challenging chapter for music subscription service Tidal, Norwegian authorities have begun a formal investigation into charges that the company faked millions of streams for artists such as Kanye West and Beyoncé.
Home Theater

Need to get rid of an unused Netflix profile? Just follow these simple steps

Need to delete an unwanted profile from your Netflix account? It's easy to do, no matter what kind of equipment you've got. Check out our handy how-to guide for step-by-step instructions.
Computing

Beam up the videos: AirPlay support is coming to VLC player

At CES 2019, the developers of VLC player announced they are adding support for Apple's Airplay feature, allowing consumers to beam video and other content from their iPhone and Android devices to an Apple TV. 
Home Theater

Not chill: Netflix is hiking prices across all its tiers

Netflix has to get the billions of dollars it's spending on new content from somewhere. The streaming giant announced price hikes across the board, raising its monthly rates between $1 and $2 per tier in the next few months.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Home Theater

Polk’s Command Bar joins Alexa’s multi-room music party

Polk's Command Bar is a home theater soundbar with Alexa built in. But with a new update, it can also be grouped with Amazon's Echo products and other third-party speakers for a multi-room experience.
Home Theater

Sling TV offers free shows, a la carte subscription channels to Roku users

If you are among a select group of Roku users, Sling TV has added free TV shows and the option to subscribe to individual channels without having to subscribe to the company's base level of channels.