Google used its 2015 Nexus launch event today to unveil two newly redesigned models of its popular Chromecast adapter.
In addition to a model optimized to work with TVs that features improved WiFi connectivity and faster video streaming playback, Google also introduced Chromecast Audio, a similar device that brings Internet connectivity to home speakers. An update coming later this year will enable users to synch up a song across multiple speakers in the home that are connected to a Chromecast Audio dongle.
The new product mix provides a way to “amplify your entertainment to the biggest and loudest devices in the home,” Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management, said.
He added that Showtime is now bringing all of its content to the Chromecast platform, with support for Sling TV, Dish Network's OTT pay TV service, coming to the platform “in the next few weeks.”
Update: "Chromecast has been one of our most requested devices since we first launched Sling TV in February," Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch said in this blog post. "At launch, Sling TV on Chromecast will work with the gadgets you already own, including Android smartphones and tablets, iPhones and iPads. We’re also working on future compatibility for Windows and Macs."
The new TV-focused Chromecast, which features in integrated HDMI cable, comes in three colors: black, lemonade and coral. Google is selling that product, as well, as the new Chromecast Audio adapter for $35 – the same price it affixed to the original Chromecast that was launched in July 2013.
The new Chromecast platform also promises improved WiFi performance using dual-band 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11ac that's paired with an adaptive antenna system (with three antennas) that ensures that the WiFi chip is using the best antenna and the best radio frequency as conditions on the home network change.
The new TV-connected Chromecast also comes with a feature called “Fast Play” that, per Google’s field tests, can reduce app load times by 80%. It also includes a content caching algorithm that, Google claimed, can figure out what the user wants to watch before he or she hits play. The app for the Chromecast will also provide a “What’s On” function to help users navigate content from cast-enabled partners such as Hulu, WatchESPN as well as the company’s own Google Play service.
The new adapter is also being optimized for games, including multiplayer options, for titles such as Angry Birds Go, WGT Golf and Monopoly. Users view the games on the TV but control them with their mobile device.
On the music front, the new Chromecast will support Spotify, while the older gen platform will gain access in the next few weeks.
Queiroz said Google has sold more than 20 million Chromecast devices globally, up from the 17 million announced in May.
Google, which is also expanding its Android TV ecosystem, is introducing the new Chromecast lineup as the streaming device market stays hot. For 2014, Roku led the market with 34% of units sold, followed the Google Chromecast (23%), Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV, according to Parks Associates.