What does a streaming device really mean to anyone?
Your family uses Apple TV, you have a Roku, and your Uncle uses his XBox.
All of these devices can stream Netflix. The real question is, where does your phone and your ability to take a video library with you on the move fit in with the world of streaming?
Enter the Chromecast.
The goal of Chromecast is one of compatibility. Like many things that we work with nowadays, the Chromecast was designed to function as an extension of the personal devices we all carry around with us.
You see, the device plugs directly into your TV's HDMI port. Unlike some other devices, the Chromecast skips out on the remote interacts directly with smartphones on the network.
Users interact with the Chromecast through an app, which is available for download from both the iOS and Android app stores. This app pulls together all the content available on a user's phone and allows them to "cast" (which means stream) the content to their television.
|The Chromecast App|
If you're curious which apps work with Chromecast, you can check them out on this page, but all the heavy hitters are available and the list is constantly growing, which makes the Chromecast more useful each day.
So what makes the Chromecast better than something like an Apple TV?
Let's say you have a show on Netflix you plan to binge watch while you visit your parent's house. With a Chromecast you can stream your Netflix app right to their device without needing to sign in on anything in their home. It's true other devices like the Apple TV have netflix, but they require you to log in to your account first. It's not a big deal, but it saves time.
More importantly, this really rings true for purchased content. You can stream movies, music, and other items you've purchased through Google Play, or if you have HBO Now subscription, you can stream the latest episode of your shows without any additional steps. No matter where you go, your library is on your phone, so all you need is the Chromecast to put it on the TV.
Did I mention this is available on both iOS and Android?
This is where the Apple TV really fumbles in my opinion, especially now that it costs $150-$199 for each unit. If you buy shows in iTunes, you have no way to stream that content to your TV without a Macintosh computer or an iOS device, paired with an Apple TV box. If you go to mom and dad's house and they don't have an Apple TV, you can't stream anything! Even if they do have a Chromecast, you're out of luck there too. iTunes only works on Apple TV.
If you buy a show through Google Play, however, you can use an iPhone, Android device, PC, Mac, or even a Chromebook to access your purchased content through a Chromecast.
|This picture means you can "cast" content.|
For that price, you can buy 4-6 Chromecast devices for every 1 Apple TV. That Chromecast plugged into your parent's TV? Well you can be sure they have one because you bought it for them when you got yours since they were so cheap!
That's a pretty big deal.
Now, Apple TV aside, there are a growing number of options out there that aim to compete with the success of the Chromecast, including the Amazon Fire Stick and the Roku stick. They are around the same price, but suffer from similar limitations to the Apple TV.
For example, the Amazon Fire Stick does not allow either Google Play purchases or iTunes purchases. Meanwhile, devices like Chromecast can stream Amazon content. Why buy a device that specifically limits your content?
That brings us back to compatibility.
The low price point and the freedom to use it with any device work together to make the Chromecast one of the best streaming device on the market. Not to mention that the user experience means your friends and family can start watching content right away.
Chromecast is available from most retailers for $35, including: