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.

12 Comments

  1. Msknoitall

    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?

  2. Oyeols

    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. Jon Norris

      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. Rasel

    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. Kyle

    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. Ben Beardsley

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

  6. Artemis68

    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. Heathee

    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. Walter

      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. Jefatmem

    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. Blake

    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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