Will we still need cables or will Chromecast negate this need?
Just over 12 months ago, Google released Chromecast.
What is Chromecast I hear you ask?
Google describe it as “a thumb-sized media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV. Set it up with a simple mobile app, then send your favourite online shows, movies, music and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet or laptop.”
So what it essentially allows you to do is make your HDMI enabled monitor or TV a little smarter.
An app on your smartphone communicates via WiFi with the Chromecast and thanks to apps on the Chromecast you could get added functionality on your big screen.
So for example; the YouTube video or Netflix rental you used to watch on the smartphone can now be watched on the big screen. Your smartphone could then be used as aremote control for that content where applicable and you could also do other things on your phone whilst the content was still being streamed on the big screen. This is particularly helpful if you are watching a movie but not paying too much attention as you complete emails and text message replies on your phone.
How this actually works is the Chromecast acts independently, thanks to the software wizardry. Essentially when you tell your device to ‘cast’ the content to the Chromecast, it goes off online and pulls the content from the location itself, thus the phone is not needed for the most part and you can then multi-task.
Over the last 12 months, the number of apps and functionality has increased.
The most recent update is the ability on selected devices to now cast your device screen to the TV. Where once you could only play select content back, you can now play back anything on your mobile device screen.
Whilst this is limited at the time of writing to select devices, this will grow as updates roll out to other handsets.
What this means now is that all content on your smartphone appears on the TV once you have asked it to be cast.
So, imagine you are sat on the sofa. You are looking at some photos on your phone. You go into the Chromecast app on the phone, select to cast your screen and now everything you see on the phone display is mirrored on the TV. Others in the phone can see those photos.
This is just one such example, but there are many others, including using it for a business presentation, an app demonstration and more.
All sounds great and all this from a little adapter that plugs into the back of your HDMI enabled screen for just £30.
However many smartphones do also have MHL or SlimPort capabilities built into them and I can not help but think such functionality of the Chromecast will reduce the need or reliance on MHL and SlimPort technology.
Both have the potential to be more reliable because they require cable connections and can support up to 4K video, whereas Chromecast relies on wireless and outputs currently at a maximum of 1080p.
That said, the cables cost money and the price of the Chromecast is similar. The setup time of each is similar too.
The downside to Chromecast is that it is currently limited to 1080p, (it is going to be some time before 4K becomes mainstream) and that it uses the 2.4GHz wireless frequency rather than offering an option for 5GHz.
Whilst I am sold into the Google ecosystem, the Chromecast does rely on you having an Android smartphone and wishing to purchase the Chromecast.
SlimPort and MHL whilst primarily seen in Android devices is capable of being integrated into other hardware so it is potentially more versatile.
With many Android devices, as standard home and app tray screen do not orient in landscape which is the natural orientation for a larger display such as a TV. Apps like Apex launcher and others help, but Google needs to add this functionality to make the screen casting really useful.
Only time will tell whether Chromecast will become the thing to own rather than MHL or SlimPort, but I know from owning and using it personally it is a very powerful product that has a real potential and it is exciting to see how this will develop over time. I imagine version 2 will be even better.
What do you think about this? Which one is best and will win long term?