Four things I didn’t know my Chromecast did, and four I wish it could do

The Chromecast is a great bit of kit, and we’ve been using it to stream everything from Formula 1 to This American Life to our TV since I picked one up a few weeks ago.

Chromecasting is already supported by all media-centric Google services (YouTube, Play Music etc.), and more apps are building in support on a weekly basis. Pocketcasts has become a firm favourite of ours, and we used a Photowall at our recent housewarming.Chromecast

Google’s smart play here was creating a protocol and a cheap bit of hardware to receive it, rather than a whole streaming media system. It’s obvious from the current crop of set-top boxes that nobody has mastered making TVs “smart” yet, so flinging data to it from various devices quickly and easily is a good middle-ground, and also gives developers a lot more freedom to play around. This protocol-iness also means Chromecasts can be used for more than just streaming media.

So… what else can you do with this thing?

Screensharing

With the CR Cast Chrome browser extension you can turn your browser window into a Chromecast receiver (basically, your browser will appear to other devices as a TV with a Chromecast plugged in). Activate CR Cast on one Chrome instance and cast to it with the Google Cast extension – voilà, you’re screensharing.

Note, of course, you won’t be able to interact with the casted Chrome tab from the browser running CR Cast – but you’ll be able to see it in real-time.

Turn on your TV automatically

Chromecast
Don’t do this – use the mains

Most people don’t realise the Chromecast needs an external power source – it’s an HDMI dongle, not USB, and HDMI doesn’t carry power. The simplest (and tidiest) way to power the Chromecast is to loop the power cable back around and plug it into a spare USB port on your TV. This does mean, though, that your Chromecast will only get power when your TV is on.

Use a mains power cable for your Chromecast instead and it can idle on your wireless network and power on your TV as soon as you cast to it using a nifty system called HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronic Control). You may have to activate this on your TV, and all TV manufacturers give it different (but uniformly daft) names. See Google’s help here.

Stream local media, including cameras

When did streaming local and network media become passée? Google haven’t built this into their services, but luckily there’s another handy Chrome extension for shooting locally-stored media to your TV for playback (the new Game of Thrones, perhaps?). Videostream will sort you out, and even has its own Android remote app. For Android devices, AllCast is a good option.

If you like your video content live, Tinycam will stream any IP camera direct to your TV. Great for security cameras and baby monitors.

Videostream

Cast to Android devices

Download an excellent little app called Cheapcasts and you can turn your Android device into a Chromecast receiver – much like the CR Cast browser extension above. When your device is active on a network as a Chromecast receiver you can push anything you like to it.

I use my Nexus 7 and dock with an audio-out into the back of our Crosley turntable. Music can be casted from anywhere in the flat to the Nexus 7, and played through the turntable speakers.

Where next?

As an open platform and with Google’s army of developers behind it Chromecast (both the physical device and the protocol) have the potential to be huge. The Chromecast is off to a good start too – Currys sold one every 4.5 seconds on launch day. Here’s what I’d like to see next.

Google Drive support

Google Drive support
Why can’t I have this?

I’m thinking specifically Presentations here. We’re thinking about putting Chromecasts in all the TVs in the office, and being able to share documents on big screens through Drive would be amazing. Spreadsheets, documents and presentations being flung to TVs willy-nilly would not only be something of a nerdy dream, but would also remove the need for fiddling with cables, projectors and second screens.

Casting directly from the Google Drive mobile app would also be hugely useful for on-the-go presentations – just take your Chromecast and your phone!

Non-media casting

Photos, videos and music are all excellent cast-fodder, but there’s absolutely no reason a “cast mode” couldn’t be built into popular apps. A Twitter wall could be casted from the Twitter app, or a “Who’s here” wall from the Eventbrite checkin app.

A fuzzy version of this can be done with various services and a desktop Chrome tab for now. For example, a few well-set-up Tweetdeck columns can make a great Twitter wall.

Authorised devices

Currently any device on a network can take over any Chromecast at any time. This leads to what has become known as Chromejacking (in our house, at least) – stealing someone else’s screen to play whatever you want.

Linking individual Chromecasts to individual devices (via a Google account would seem logical – the same way Android devices are linked to Google accounts) would not only stop this nefarious pastime, but would mean – connection speed allowing – Chromecasting could be done outside individual wireless networks and take place over the wider Internet.

More useful idle state

Chromecast home screen
Nice, but ultimately useless

At the moment the Chromecast has a selection of perfectly lovely – but totally useless – wallpapers that rotate when it’s not in use. Why not pull in your Google Now cards? Why not stream some Google+ posts or photos? Open up the homescreen to developers (just like in Android) and see what they can come up with!

Thankfully it looks like Google already has plans here, and things like Immersive Weather will get you most of the way there.

36 thoughts on “Four things I didn’t know my Chromecast did, and four I wish it could do

  1. I recently purchased a Chromecast to project from my IPAD to TV.  Since installing the device, my Internet provider has informed me that my data usage has exceeded limit for all three months I’ve had the device.  Nothing has changed in terms of our usage and everyone works so its not like we’re using Internet all day.  I suspect the Chromecast is the culprit.  Does the device use data?  Can it be the reason for our data usage overage?

    1. As Kyle said on April 18, 2015 at 2:12 am, chromecast does traffic over the internet while idle, at least for the slideshow.
      My solution is to attach the power to a USB spare porto on the tv. It still downloading images, but only when the tv is on (sure, even if you are not watching the chromecast HDMI channel).
      Simple workaround.

    2. These devices are going to potentially cost consumers a very lot of money in wasted internet usage.

      I have two ChromeCast devices; one on each TV. Up until recently, when I switched off the TV, the cast device noticed the TV shutdown and put itself in idle mode (background image display, which is great) However over the past few weeks I have noticed that when I again power up my TV, ChromeCast is still spooling out video! I watch a lot of YT documentaries and often push the sleep timer on my bedroom TV. Now when I wake in the morning, Powering up the TV finds that Google and it’s ChromeCast has been wasting my Internet service all night spooling high bandwidth video into a powered off TV. Can you imagine going on vacation for a few weeks only to return to a Internet service provider bill of abusive proportions! Would Google pick up the tab? Yea, right.

      Pissed about this I called Google’s ChromeCast help line. Yes and before you think this was waste of time, you would be correct. Google is no better in my opinion that any other useless help service. The person I spoke with had poor english and when I finally spoke to supposedly a supervisor, that claimed he was a Google employee, he stated emphatically that the ChromeCast devices are designed to spool out video continuously. The only way to stop them for consuming your wallet is to hunt for and push the “stop casting” icon on your phone or hunt through the casting apps that likely have timed out since you started your video, and push the pause button.

      For a company as large a Goodle to produce and promote a device that could without warning, run your Internet bill up by hundreds of dollars it completely unacceptable. Come on Google. A blunder like this is hopefully not charistic of the overall company.

      Fix it now.

  2. Is data being consumed while casting local files? Not been able to get a definite response to this question? I don’t have unlimited data so I need to know.

    1. To be perfectly honest I have no idea – although it wouldn’t surprise me if it used a small amount of data as Google’s services tend to ping servers regularly. It wouldn’t make much sense for the bulk of the media to pass over the wider network though.

  3. After using google chromecast only one month, my internet data usage limit has been exceeded which was 300GB. I am very surpeised to see that because previously I never use that much data. I dont know is there any issue with google chromecast to consume too much data or i am watching too much HD video from youtube.

  4. I can answer a few of these comments: yes the chromecast does use bandwidth while idle. The Screensaver (daydream mode) pulls a selection of high resolution images from the Internet. A few images doesn’t have a huge impact on data usage, but a rotating selection that runs literally all month whenever the device isn’t in use can really add up. Google could solve this problem by caching images, offering non-internet scrensavers, or by making the screen go black a set time after the screen saver triggers. Unfortunately I don’t think this issue is high on their priority list right now. I’m looking into replacing my chromecast with the Nexus Player, which offers additional functionality along with casting support and is supposed to allow you to set an offline Screensaver (a moving color gradient).

  5. Found you! My Google search chromecast data use yielded this article first. Thanks for being awesome Jon.

  6. I bought a Chromecast for the cottage to watch Netflix. My data usage went up like crazy!! I just got a printout today of where my data is going and at the cottage my Netflix is over twice my home usage where I use a Roku…. and I’m at the cottage 1/3 the time and only use the TV when it’s raining. Yes, I have a password on my router. So, I would say there is something fishy going on with the Chromecast and data usage.

  7. I’m confused about the data usage comments. I just got the Chrome cast to use over WiFi in my home and it has worked great so far. To my knowledge I have never nor would ever be charged for WiFi data usage by my phone carrier whose devices I use to cast with (iPad and android phone) or by my Internet service provider.

    1. Heathee, your confusion is understandable. Actually, the data usage concerns expressed above pertain to the ISP not the cell phone, as some providers do limit data use.

  8. I just bought two Chromecast Audio devices and my internet usage went off the charts. I am only using these sparingly. Last night I shutdown the Pandora app on my phone only to find the the Chromecast audio device continued to stream Pandora for another hour.

  9. the chromecast is basically a Web browser (in simplistic terms) and it pulls data. you can turn off the remote (tablet, phone, laptop) and it will continue to play. that is why your data may be going up.

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  11. I’ve had the 1st chromecast many months and with Comcast have had 34gb monthly use. Light use of it with YouTube and netflix. But I recently got 2 of the new chromecast and my data rocketed past the 300gb limit in 2 weeks. I just hooked the new ones up and tested the CAST function, showed Charlie Chan from my phone to tv. At 3 weeks now I am at 444gb!!!! I’ve written Comcast via BBB. researching and finding comments like this site, it SEEMs chromecast eats data painting new pictures when idle. I can’t find if that means while it’s plugged in and I watch satellite it’s still grabbing pictures- but it IS how I perceive it. And the next part I question, if I am CASTING off my phone to tv, HOW is Comcast counting all that data? It should just be local router transferring. Seems Google needs to be fixing something. But they have my money and I’m past the return time. But I’ve unplugged 3 chromecast as it SEEMS TO ME chromecast is a data vampire. Ed

  12. I’ve had Chromecast since it first came out and used it sparingly since my main interest is for mirroring my Samsung phone to TV via wifi direct with either a dongle or to Smart TV (also a Samsung ) and this puzzles me. If I mirror my phone to TV with Chromecast can my Exede ISP count my usage when I’m not coursing anything through its system? (I have unlimited Tmo account. ) Also, if I don’t use the Internet but projects only my phone contents (downloaded videos and pictures)? Will greatly appreciate explanations here. Thanks.

  13. I have a chrome cast and have been using it for some time. I can see where people are having issues with it as one day I was streaming a movie from a media server. I switched of the television and an hour later I noticed that the hard drive was still going. I checked my network and found chrome cast was still accessing the media centre with the tv turned off. So it would be the case with any other media. My chrome cast was powered from the adapter. I have now switched it to be powered of the usb port on my television and once I switch the tv off chrome cast is off.

  14. This is how I view what happens with Chromecast and data.

    I use TVMC. At the end of the month, I’ll have 50GB of downloaded usage, verified by 2 different apps AND the internal data tracker on an S6. Google Play Services will show 150GB of usage in that same time period.

    This is telling me that I download video, it gets sent to the router, to the chromecast, to Google, back to the router, to the phone, then to Chromecast.

    Basically, Google made the Chromecast so cheap so that they can observe all the video you’re using for marketing purposes. What else could that mean.

    1. I still leave it plugged into the HDMI on the tv but I turn it off on the mains plug when I’m not using it… It doesn’t eat data when it’s turned off at the wall correct or not ?

  15. H.Z.L.N.L. Love you scrive:Wow…..cara, mi dici un po’ di nomi di riviste..? Io ne ho prese un paio, ma nessuna traccia di poster…. Peró mi regaleranno i copri piumini dei miei 5 idoli… Non vedo l’ora…..Ok, nn cent’anni nulla… XDComa, spero anche io che vengano in Italia….

    1. diopqbs&;:J&rsnut;ai fais un tour sur ta boutique en ligne et, franchement j’adore tes créations. C’est joli, gourmand, coloré.. tout ce que j’aime ! Et ce collier-macaron et ADORABLE ! C’est pourquoi, je participe au concours Autrement, en bijoux gourmands, des petits donut’s ou des bonbons Haribo, ce serait trop chou ! Bonne continuation !

  16. If I unplug the chrome caste when I’m not watching Netflix thru it will that be ok ? I leave it plugged into the HDMI plug in my tv but turn it off at the mains plug switch when I’m not using it… It doesn’t eat data when it’s turned off at the wall correct or not ?

  17. Interested by all these comments about data usage. Here in slow UK Ltd we have a 50gB monthly limit from our ISP so talk about huge usage is scary – before fitting a cast to a new TV.
    Can I ensure I only use data when watching? – is removing power from the unit at the back of the TV enough or is there another data use going on higher up the chain. Don’t really want to spend £30 on the unit and then £50/month o additional data!

  18. Ugh, I”m right there with you! My baby’s first 2 teeth are just about up and no one is sleeping. Have you tried the tiny tablets you dissolve under the kiddo’s tongue? They work for Beatrix and I even tried them myself just to see – your mouth feels all tingly and numb from them. It might get you some sleep…

  19. I have a terabyte limit per month, and watch Youtube a lot. I’ve been over my terabyte limit for the last 4 months, since my daughter moved out and I put xfinity in MY name. But I know before it was in my name, we NEVER went over the data limit. I’ve had my Chromecast for over a year and it’s an older version.

    1. Yes the older version didn’t chew data. I only have chromecast 2. It’s not high def but it still chews through data if I don’t unplug it from TV

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