Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chromecast - too good to be true?

I’ll admit to being a bit of a gadget fan. These days though, I tend to hold back from the ‘bleeding edge’ in favour of somewhere where the pain threshold is a bit lower. So it wasn’t until last month that I bought a Chromecast device. At under $60 it was a small outlay and, as a consequence, I did less prior research than usual (my bad).

What I wanted was a device which allowed my family to view ‘on demand’ television from the main New Zealand broadcasters on a mixture of iOS and Android devices. The broadcaster’s apps were already available for both platforms but how much better would it be if they could be viewed on the TV. Unfortunately there was a large lump of disappointment waiting down this track.

What I hadn’t understood was that Chromecast only works with specific Chromecast enabled apps. Neither of the New Zealand on-demand apps (TVNZ nor TV3) are Chromecast enabled, nor is Spark’s Lightbox. YouTube is Chromecast enabled, but my smart TV already played YouTube so I didn’t need Chromecast for that. Netflix is Chromecast enabled but this is New Zealand and NZ is not Netflix compatible (yes, I know there are ways around this). That leaves Chromecast in New Zealand with Google Play Movies and Quickflix - an Australian/NZ Netflix style service.

There are quite a number of other ‘novelty’ apps that can cast your picture gallery or a video from your mobile device, but these are simply icing on a rather insubstantial cake. What Chromecast needs to be able to do is cast anything that you can see/hear on a mobile device, and its far from being able to do this on anything but late model Android devices (4.4.4 and above) even then it is a buggy beta implementation.

So, what about this Quickflix service then? Well it sort of works - best from your desktop browser but iOS and Android apps are available. Be warned though, the iOS app only gets 1.5 stars on the App Store and the Android app only 3 stars on the Play Store. Both of the mobile apps are feature constrained and buggy. As for the service, regular media consumers will be disappointed; the $13/month basic service gets you access to a catalogue of either older or unpopular TV series and films (great for catching up with Dr Who though) while the additional pay-per-view Premium service is still not going to give you the very latest titles.

So the end result is that Chromecast in New Zealand is somewhat of a disappointment. Lots of promise but severely lacking in actual application. So, yes, Chromecast sounds too good to be true at the moment. Shame.

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