Vimeo finally adds Chromecast support to its iOS app

Better late than never: Vimeo added Chromecast support to its iOS app Friday, allowing users to cast videos straight from an iPad or iPhone to Google’s streaming stick or any Android TV device.

Chromecast-connecting

Chromecast support for Vimeo has been a frequently-requested feature ever since Chromecast launched in summer of 2013. Vimeo acknowledged the delayed response in a blog post Friday, cheekily calling the cast feature “the one you’ve been waiting for.”

A Vimeo spokesperson told me that the company doesn’t have a firm date for bringing casting to its Android app, but added: “It’s a priority for us and coming soon.”

Google’s Chromecast has been used for more than one billion casts

Google still hasn’t released any sales numbers for its Chromecast streaming stick, but Google’s Chief Business officer Omid Kordestani updated investors on one metric during the company’s Q4 call Thursday: Chromecast reached one billion cast sessions last week, Kordestani said.

This means that Chromecast usage seems to be accelerating: Google VP of product management Mario Queiroz told us at our Structure Connect back in October that Chromecast had reached 650 million cast sessions. Three months before that, the number of sessions was at 400 million.

Google defines a “cast session” as a user pressing the cast button within an Android, iOS or web app. In other words: Streaming multiple YouTube videos to your TV one after another counts as just one session.

Google put a lot of energy into international expansion for Chromecast in 2014. At CES, it also introduced Google Cast for audio, adding casting to connected loudspeakers from Denon, LG and Sony. Queiroz told me at Structure Connect that the company plans to introduce a V2 of Chromecast in the future.

Here’s my interview with Queiroz back in October:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EXUOyAjNSg]

PlayOn gets ready to launch a desktop app with ad skipping

Video streaming underdog PlayOn is getting ready to launch a desktop client for Windows in the coming months, which will allow users to play and record web videos from over 100 sources right on their computer. The PlayOn desktop client will also offer an option to skip ads on streams from major TV networks (think of it as a poor man’s Hopper), and users will be able to cast videos to a Chromecast streaming stick or Android TV.

playon Channels

[company]PlayOn[/company] has been around for years, and was initially trying to solve a simple problem: TV networks weren’t making all of their shows available for streaming on Roku boxes and other connected devices. That’s why PlayOn streamed them to a PC first, where videos were transcoded on the fly, and then relayed to the TV screen. The company eventually added video recording as well, essentially turning computers into DVRs for web video.

All of that didn’t go over so well with content providers, which didn’t like that PlayOn was undermining their streaming policies. As a consequence of this tension, Roku was forced to remove PlayOn’s public channel from its devices.

However, PlayOn CEO Jeff Lawrence wasn’t too concerned when I asked him about this during last week’s CES. PlayOn isn’t officially available on Roku anymore, he explained, but the company still has a channel on the platform: MyMedia allows Roku users to play content stored on their PCs, and a one-time in-app purchase adds the capability to play web videos as well.

playon Good Wife Detail

PlayOn’s desktop app promises to relay content to Roku as well and will also support casting to Chromecast. That’s notable because Google hasn’t actually released a Cast SDK for desktop apps — but PlayOn reverse engineered the protocol and made it work anyway.

That likely won’t help PlayOn to get any more popular with networks and device manufacturers, but it could be seen as a wake-up call for publishers that haven’t officially added casting to their media. In the end, users always find a way to play their favorite content on the devices of their choice — whether it’s officially supported or not.

Cast-Fi is a speaker with a display and a port for Chromecast

This is kinda neat: Burbank, California-based Aurender is showing a small speaker dubbed Cast-Fi 7 at CES that comes with an integrated 7-inch display to watch videos and TV shows, as well as a HDMI port that is meant to be used to plug in a Chromecast or any other HDMI-based streaming stick.

Here’s how the device looks like from the back, complete with a nook that perfectly fits a HDMI dongle:

Cast-Fi 7

The 24 watt speaker, which the company officially launched late last year, is selling for $399 on Amazon. That’s a lot of money, considering that you may be able to buy a small TV for less. But there is something compelling about this approach: The device itself doesn’t run any app platform, which also means that it won’t be outdated in a year or two. Instead, you just plug in a streaming stick, and you’re good.

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LG wants to take on Sonos with cheaper connected speakers

LG thinks it has a shot to take on Sonos with its new Music Flow connected loudspeakers, and it’s banking on two thing: Content and costs. The Korean consumer electronics giant has teamed up with Google to add Google Cast to its Music Flow devices, allowing consumers to cast audio straight from apps like Pandora, Rdio, TuneIn and others. And it may sell its cheapest connected speaker for as little as $100.

lg music flow

LG is showing off a variety of Music Flow speakers, including a sound bar with subwoofer and a battery-powered mobile speaker, at CES in Las Vegas this week. The company hasn’t announced any firm release date or details on a suggested retail price yet, but I was told by one of the LG spokespeople on the floor that Music Flow speakers will be available this spring, and that the price will be “significantly cheaper” than the competition. I wanted to know more, so I asked another representative, who told me the plan was to sell them for half of what the competition is charging.

Neither of them directly mentioned Sonos, but it’s pretty clear that the company is on top of LG’s mind: Even the design of the Music Flow line-up closely resembles the connected loudspeakers that Sonos is selling.

LG’s Music Flow app.

 

However, there are a few differences. Aside from the ability to use Google Cast, LG also allows users to communicate via SMS with their speakers to set alarms, start playback or even automatically generate a playlist for a certain mood. Music Flow speakers come with their own app that can be used to configure zones as well as access third-party music apps, and each speaker connects directly over Wifi without the need for a hub or bridge — something that Sonos also recently added to its products.

lg music flow

Google announced on Monday that it is bringing Google Cast, the technology that also powers the company’s Chromecast streaming stick, to connected speakers. LG, Denon and Sony are all launch partners for what’s being called Google Cast for audio.

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Google is bringing its Chromecast tech to connected speakers

Watch out, Sonos: Google wants to take on the connected audio market, and it’s launching its onslaught with a potent weapon, as well as some big partners. Sony, LG and Denon will all show Wi-fi connected speakers at CES in Las Vegas this week that support Google Cast, the same technology that’s at the core of Google’s popular Chromecast streaming stick.

Google Cast for Audio, as the initiative is officially called, isn’t starting from zero: Partners are able to add cast capabilities to existing products through firmware updates. Denon for example is using this to make all the speakers and home audio products from its HEOS line cast-capable.

Denon's HEOS speakers will soon support Chromecast apps. Existing HEOS owners will be able to add the feature through a firmware update.

Denon’s HEOS speakers will soon support Chromecast apps. Existing HEOS owners will be able to add the feature through a firmware update.

These speakers will support dozens of music streaming services and podcasting apps, including Pandora, Rdio, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music, 8tracks, NPR One and others. And just like with Chromecast, all of the interaction happens on the mobile device, with users simply shifting their audio streams from their phone to their speaker by pressing the cast button within the app that they’re already accustomed to using. After that, users will be able to turn off their phones or do something else, since streams are launched from the cloud, just as it is the case with Chromecast.

“The world is moving to mobile first,” [company]Google[/company] Cast Director of Product Management Rishi Chandra said during a recent interview. With audio, that’s been happening even more than with video, so it made perfect sense to extend casting to the world of audio, he argued.

Google is also working with chip makers [company]Broadcom[/company] and [company]MediaTek[/company] as well as home theater systems integrator Libre Wireless on Google Cast for audio products, and Chandra told me that the company is going to reveal additional partners later in 2015. The plan is to bring casting not only to Wi-Fi connected speakers, but also sound bars and A/V receivers.

Plus, Google Cast integrates with multiroom audio technologies developed by each vendor, so users will be able to cast their music streams to multiple speakers in the same house, and even maintain different zones, just like they can with a Sonos setup. Chandra told me that [company]Sony[/company], [company]LG[/company] and [company]Denon[/company] will all show off multiroom audio capable speakers with Google Cast support at CES this week.

Bringing Google Cast to connected speakers is a bit of getting back to the roots for Google: The company launched its own connected audio product, dubbed the Nexus Q, in 2012. The device was expensive, looked odd, and had very limited support for third-party services. Met with lots of criticism, Google decided to scrap the launch of the Nexus Q just a month after announcing it.

However, the Nexus Q was the first device to experiment with the casting paradigm, which then became core of the Chromecast experience. “The Nexus Q was an early iteration of this long-term vision,” acknowledged Chandra during our interview, adding that the company spent a long time trying to get the home media experience right.

Using Google Cast for home audio is a pretty smart move for the company. Not only are there already lots of Android, iOS and web apps available that support Google Cast, but it also hits a nerve with consumers who have bought a Chromecast in the past. Google hasn’t released any sales numbers for the device, but recent estimates  put Chromecast ahead of Apple TV, making it the second-most-popular streaming device in the U.S. in 2014.

Google Cast-capable connected loudspeakers will be available this spring. But if you can’t wait, you could always do what I did and build your own Chromecast-powered connected audio adapter:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRM7Vqej9s8]

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10 tips and tricks to get the most out of your new Chromecast

Someone put a new Chromecast for you under the tree, or maybe you just bought one for yourself to finally bring Netflix to your TV. You unpacked it, hooked it up, watched a show or two — and now you’re wondering: What else can this thing do?

A lot, actually. Not only are there now hundreds of apps for Chromecast, you can also mirror almost any content to the screen, and add personal media to the pictures that are shown when you are not actively watching anything. Check out our updated list of the 10 best Chromecast tips and tricks below:

1. Use guest mode to let your friends cast

Guest mode can be easily turned on in the Chromecast app.

Guest mode can be easily turned on in the Chromecast app.

Chromecast is a great device to use with friends: Open the YouTube app on multiple devices, have everyone add some videos to the queue, and you’ve got yourself a YouTube party. Have your relatives use Chromecast to show off their latest photos on a bigger screen, and your family get-together becomes a lot more fun. Or invite your HBO Go-using buddy over to watch the network’s latest shows on your TV, and you might just be ready to cut the cord.

Guests can use your Chromecast without being on the same Wifi network thanks to sounds played by your TV that only your phone can hear. Pretty cool!

Guests can use your Chromecast without being on the same Wi-Fi network thanks to sounds played by your TV that only your phone can hear. Pretty cool!

You don’t even need to hunt for that scrap piece of paper with your long and complicated Wi-Fi password to get guests started. Instead, just enable guest mode in the Chromecast app for Android.

After that, any nearby Android device can cast to your Chromecast without being on the same network. Your friends’ devices should be able to discover and link up with your Chromecast automatically, thanks to cool ultrasonic tech, but there is also a PIN on the TV screen in case this fails.

2. Mirror your computer screen and phone

There are hundreds of Android, iOS and web apps for Chromecast (here’s a list of most of them), but occasionally you still find an app that just doesn’t support casting yet. That’s where screen mirroring comes in. Any Android device running Android 4.4.2 or higher can mirror its screen to your Chromecast, meaning that your TV will show exactly what you are seeing on your phone screen.

You can enable screen casting in the Chromecast app for Android.

You can enable screen casting in the Chromecast app for Android.

Don’t have an Android phone, or maybe you’re stuck with a handset with an older version of Android? Then you should install the Google Cast extension for Google’s Chrome browser on your PC or laptop, which lets you mirror any website to the TV screen. Just be aware that this kind of mirroring is still experimental, which means that video stream in particular with sometimes lag or stutter. But it’s a great way to quickly show something on the TV, whether it’s a presentation or a funny photo you found on Facebook.

3. Turn your TV on from your mobile device

One of the coolest things about Chromecast is that it can turn on your TV, and even change to the right HDMI input, when you start casting music or videos from your mobile device — no TV remote required. That’s because Chromecast uses a little-known technology called HDMI-CEC that is supported by most modern TVs.

Some TVs require you to change some settings before Chromecast can make the remote control obsolete.

Some TVs require you to change some settings before Chromecast can make the remote control obsolete.

However, some TVs don’t have CEC enabled by default, so you might have to dive into the settings and look for CEC options to turn on. Unfortunately, not every TV maker calls it by that name, so you may have to scour for Anynet+ (Samsung), Bravia Link or Bravia Sync (Sony), Simplink (LG), Viera Link (Panasonic), Regza Link (Toshiba) or similar terms and then try to enable options to power the TV and switch input (as seen in the photo above). And if that still doesn’t do the trick, double-check that you are using the power adapter that came with the Chromecast as opposed to your TV’s USB port to make sure it gets power even when the TV is turned off.

4. Play local media

There are now tons of apps to play your own photos, videos or media stored on your PC with Chromecast. Here are some of the best: AllCast handles videos, photos and audio files and can also beam media to a bunch of other devices in your house, including Sonos speakers and Apple TVs, but the app nags you with an annoying watermark to buy the premium version for $4.99?. Localcast looks a bit more complicated upon launching it for the first time, but the app is pretty powerful; it can load media from a range of devices, including NAS drives on your local network, and automatically compiles a media library from select sources. Plus, the free version can be used without any further restrictions.

Casting a photo with Allcast.

Casting a photo with Allcast.

Plex is a feature-rich personal media management solution that involves running some server software on your computer, but it can’t be beat if you have large libraries of content. And Dayframe can not only be used to compile slideshows from your personal media, but also cast photos from Facebook, Google+ and other sources, as well as curated slideshows that make your Chromecast look even better. It’s a petty powerful app with a bit of a learning curve, but the results do look pretty great.

Dayframe not only casts slideshows of personal media, but also  featured photo streams that make your Chromecast look pretty.

Dayframe not only casts slideshows of personal media, but also featured photo streams that make your Chromecast look pretty.

5. Watch 3D VR without a headset

Oculus_Rift

Want to experience virtual reality without shelling out money for a headset? You can, thanks to Chromecast — sort of, anyway, and provided that you not only have Google’s cardboard app installed on your Android phone, but also a 3D TV in your living room. I don’t, which is why this is the only tip on this list that I haven’t personally tried. But if you do, you can set it to SBS mode in the TV’s 3D settings. Then mirror the screen of the cardboard app to your TV, put on the 3D glasses that came with your TV, and voila: you’ve got yourself a VR experience without a VR headset (hat tip to Ryan Martin).

6. Add your photos to the Chromecast slideshow

Isn’t it nice that Chromecast shows you beautiful nature photos when you are not actively watching any videos? And wouldn’t it be even nicer if you could add your own photos to this slideshow? Actually, you can: The Chromecast Android and iOS apps offer a feature dubbed “Backdrop” that allows you to customize your home screen.

The Chromecast app lets you select tyour own Google+ albums to display on your Chromecast home screen.

The Chromecast app lets you select tyour own Google+ albums to display on your Chromecast home screen.

Not only can you add galleries of photos you uploaded to Google+ (which don’t have to be shared with anyone else), but you can also decide which other sources Google should use and add artworks, news photography, satellite images and even a small weather report widget to your Chromecast’s home screen.

7. Use it in a hotel room

Looking for an alternative to expensive in-room entertainment options during your next hotel stay? Chromecast could come to the rescue — if you are willing to experiment, that is. Getting Chromecast to work in hotels isn’t actually that easy. Most hotels have landing pages for their Wifi, forcing you to acknowledge the terms of service or even enter your room number, before you can start surfing. That doesn’t work with a Chromecast, simply because it doesn’t have a web browser.

But there are other ways: Some people have had success with running a hotspot on their mobile phone, and then either casting media straight from their phone or their laptop (just beware of mobile data charges). Others have been using hotspot software on their laptops to get their Chromecast up and running. Some even recommend to simply call up the front desk and whitelist the device, but your mileage may vary. In the past, I’ve had success using a small wireless router, as demonstrated in the video below:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEk296QMwxk]

8. Get some free stuff

Guess what: Your Chromecast can save you some real money. For example, Google started to give away $20 of Google Play credit for every Chromecast bought after December 7. Google is also currently giving away a free digital copy of the first X-Men movie and services like Hulu Plus, DramaFever, Sesame Street Go and Epix are all running free promotions.

chromecast offers

Simply connect to your Chromecast in the Android or iOS app and then access offers through the options menu, or visit Chromecast.com/offers with your computer (Chrome browser and Google cast extension required) while on your home Wifi network. Google will then search for the device ID and let you know for which offers you qualify. And the best thing: Some of these perks are even available to people who have owned their Chromecast for some time, so it makes sense to frequently check for new offers.

9. Use Chromecast with your headphones

Want to watch a movie on the TV, but not wake up your significant other who fell asleep on the couch? Then just pipe the audio track through your phone and listen to it with earbuds. Chromecast doesn’t offer this kind of headphone listening out of the box, but there is a way to nonetheless make it happen: Local media casting app Localcast can route the audio signal to your phone while playing a video on your TV. Audio and video feed have to be manually synchronized, but after a little bit of trial-and-error, it actually works very well. However, Localcast only plays media saved on your phone, a NAS drive Google Drive — so you won’t be able to use this with Netflix.

10. Use it as an audio adapter

There are now dozens of music apps available for both iOS and Android that support casting, including Pandora, Rdio, Vevo, Google Play Music, Songza, 8tracks and more, as well as a number of podcast players and radio apps, including TuneIn, NPR One, BeyondPod and more. You can of course cast these to your TV, but you can also connect your Chromecast directly to any stereo — if you buy a small adapter, that is. Check out this video below for a quick demo:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRM7Vqej9s8]

Please note: I’ve gotten a few emails from readers who have said that these kinds of adapters haven’t worked for them, but I’ve had no problem with it, so it may depend on the exact model you order, and your mileage may vary.

This post was updated on 12/27 to clarify that mirroring is enabled for any device supporting Android version 4.4.2 or higher, not 4.2.2, as stated by a previous version of this article.

Vimeo CTO renews commitment to add Chromecast support

Good news for Chromecast owners: Vimeo hasn’t given up on the streaming stick, and plans to add cast support to its apps at some point in the future. “It’s gonna come, we just don’t know when,” said Vimeo CTO Andrew Pile during an interview Friday. Pile added that Chromecast support has been frequently requested, but that Vimeo is still trying to figure out how to slot it into its development roadmap, and which platforms to target first. Adding Chromecast support does make a lot of sense for Vimeo: A recent report estimated that the streaming stick accounted for 20 percent of all streaming device sales during the first nine months of this year.

Chromecast doesn’t have a remote, so this guy built one himself

Google’s Chromecast streaming stick comes without a remote control, opting instead to rely on a user’s mobile device to launch and control media streams. But Jeff Bower felt like something was missing.

“Chromecast works great on a single device, but for a multi-device household it’s a bit more…interesting,” Bower argued on Google+ Tuesday, adding that things get complicated when his wife wants to pause a stream that he started with his phone.

That’s why Bower recently began to build his own Chromecast remote control. His project, aptly called Razcast, is based on a Rhaspberry Pi, a python script to control a Chromecast on the same network, and a single button to pause and resume media playback. Here’s what the finished device looks like:

800px-Razcast_Remote_Front

And it works great, at least for Google Play Movies and Plex, according to Bower. Netflix, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to work at all, which is why Bower finally gave in and ordered a Nexus Player. But still, the fact that he got it to work at all is pretty neat.