As Google and Amazon continue to compete for smart home dominance, their products and features are beginning to look … well, the same. On Thursday, July 26, Amazon debuted a new feature called Alexa Cast, which allows users to decide what’s playing on their Alexa-enabled speakers from their phones.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Google has a very similar feature called Google Cast, which also allows users to “extend your Android, iOS, or Chrome app to direct its streaming video and audio to a TV or sound system.” For the time being, it would appear that Alexa’s version of the feature is not quite as robust, as it works exclusively with the Amazon Music app and can only allow for music playback. But eventually, it seems likely that Amazon will expand functionality, allowing users to control playback of movies, podcasts, and just about any other content.
As it stands, Alexa Cast is compatible with any and all Alexa-enabled devices. That means the whole Echo line, third-party Alexa speakers (such as Sonos), and some Amazon Fire devices can all work with the new feature. As of Thursday, you’ll see a new icon in your Amazon Music app on both Android and iOS for Alexa Cast on the Now Playing screen. If you tap that button, you’ll see all your connected Alexa devices, and have the option to choose which one you’d like to cast your music to. The app will remain connected to the speaker, so you can keep controlling music from afar no matter where in your home (or out of it) you may be.
Currently, the easiest and most obvious way to control music on Alexa devices is by your voice. While you can use Bluetooth to exercise control as well, there hasn’t been anything quite as seamless as Alexa Cast in the past, which is actually somewhat surprising. But now that the feature has arrived, users should be able to select a speaker and begin playing music much more efficiently.
For the time being, unfortunately, no third-party apps are supported, so you can’t cast, say, your iTunes library or your Spotify playlists. That said, an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge, “We’ll continue to improve this feature and expand support over time.”