July 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Why Google Chromecast Isn’t Apple Airplay


Google now has an icon to rival Apple AirPlay, but its television-centric approach will probably leave most music fans preferring Apple's music-centric approach.

About two and a half years after Evolver.fm started taking Google to task over its lack of a super-simple wireless music solution along the lines of Apple’s AirPlay for zapping music to speakers around the house, Google unveiled on Wednesday what some are calling its answer to AirPlay: Chromecast.

The $35 Chromecast HDMI dongle plugs right into the back of your television, after which you can beam music and videos from YouTube, Netflix, your Google Play account, and anything your Chrome browser can handle. Google says future updates will add native support for more apps, but the mere fact that Chromecast can play music from Android, iOS, Mac, or Windows via the Chrome browser appears to make it a suitable way to play music in the home, except for one thing: It requires a television.

That’s great for the cord-cutters, people who free-ride their friends’ and relatives’ Netflix, HBO, and other video accounts, and anyone else who wants to watch internet video without physically connecting their laptops to their televisions — and it’s cheaper than most of of the other ways to do that.

However, Chromecast is not AirPlay, where music fans are concerned.

Google's $35 Chromecast HDMI dongle

Google's $35 Chromecast HDMI dongle

Apple AirPlay can send music not only the AirPort Express, which plugs right into your stereo system (no television required), but also to standalone speaker systems and even stereos from Denon, Marantz, and others. A friend of ours even figured out how to put AirPlay in a car.

With Chromecast, Google has a super-attractive new device for watching videos and playing music — however, the latter assumes that you’ve routed the audio outputs on your television to some decent speakers; you don’t mind putting those speakers next to your television; you have a television in the first place; you don’t mind turning on your television to listen to music; and you don’t mind not being able to listen to your music if someone else in your house is watching the television or playing a videogame on it.

That’s a lot of assumptions. For music fans, Chromecast, for all its charm and inexpensive allure, still leaves Google well behind its competitor Apple, when it comes to wireless music playback in the home, and even further behind wireless music specialist Sonos.

  • Anonymous

    The picture is the different reading the SDK specs.
    You can do several things apple TV cannot do :

    1. Apps can run chromecast for streaming contents (video, audio, pics, etc) on TV, Apple TV (via Airplay) doesn’t allow streaming of all this media together (i.e musiXmatch cannot push entire lyrics screen with a video on Apple TV)

    2. Apple TV is syncronized with device while Chrome Cast just see the device as TX or RX but can runs on its own (i.e. I can Chrome Cast a Nextflix movie from my tablet and than switch my device off while my Tv still plays it)

    So any apps can supports Chrome Cast while Airplay (video/audio/images) is not supported by apps on iOS.

    So if you’re thinking about an Airplay clone you’re totally wrong, this is a remote Apple TV you can play from the cloud.

    It’s awesome.

  • Bob Heathcote

    Gosh I hope you are right and I can stream videos, music, content stored on my Nexus

  • http://www.flatpanels.dk Rasmus Larsen

    You can do that with Airplay, too. Airplay is a combined device-to-device and cloud service. So when you click Airplay in the Netflix app, the Apple TV box established a direct connection to the Netflix servers – just like Chromecast. And you can turn off the screen on your iOS device. Nothing streams from the iOS device to the Apple TV via Airplay unless you have physical media files on the iOS device.

    Chromecast, on the other hand, is a cloud based streamer. I does not stream local content stored on the device (unless you are using it with mirroring from Chome browser).

  • Anonymous

    Why Google Chromecast isn’t Apple Airplay…..yet.

    Fair enough the Chromecast hardware does need hdmi and a tv or receiver with hdmi to play music – but Google did say other hardware manufacturers can implement chromecast so hopefully now this can be added to the external speakers and to stereos you mentioned.

  • Anonymous

    Netflix uses a special API for Airplay. This is not public or either available to third parties. Netflix is embedded into Apple TV in US.

    Point is if you want to develop a game which uses airplay you can’t actually stream audio+real game.

    It has to be a video.

    Quite complicated.

    Correct Chromecast is a cloud based streamer.

  • http://www.flatpanels.dk Rasmus Larsen

    Yes, but the same thing happens with YouTube, other streaming services, Vimeo etc. When browing from Safari, you can Airplay internet video streams over to the Apple TV via Airplay. The Apple TV basically takes over the URL for the video and streams directly from the server. This is not unique for Netflix at all. This is how it works.

    Whenever this cannot be done – for example with games or locally stored videos from the iPad/iPhones camera, a H-264 encoded video stream is created directly from the graphic card in the iPad/iPhone and sent via Airplay, yes.

    As said before, Airplay combines device-to-device streaming with cloud streaming.

  • Eddie C

    Saying Netflix uses a special API not available to others is disingenuous. There is API to use AirPlay/AppleTV as a second screen. Check out gams like Real Racing 2 HD or the Redfin app. With Mavericks, users can set up an AppleTV as a regular external monitor at the system level. No need for extra special code or SDK.

    > It has to be a video

    Any one of the AirPlay games authors or folks who does presentations with Keynote on iPhone+AppleTV would disagree.

    Finally, AirPlay != AppleTV. There are plenty of third party stereos that can sit at the receiving side of AirPlay. With iOS in the Car, car makers can make their in-car display as AirPlay-compliant and allow Maps and other apps to display custom UI on it. I believe we would have seen third-party AirPlay-capable TVs by now if Apple did not having plan of building its own TV sets.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like what you want is the Nexus Q.

  • sambone

    Because no one hooks up decent speakers to their TV these days…

  • Anonymous

    You don’t need a TV for music. You just need a digital receiver that supports HDMI switching. In fact, that would work just fine for video too.

  • David Johnson-Igra

    Well said!

  • kasey

    You dont need a TV to play music… as long as your initial setup is on any device with a screen (monitor, TV) you can then unplug it and move it to any audio receiver that has a HDMI port. problem solved. And i just now read the review above that said the same thing but im still posting this

  • Jake

    Most home theater receivers have HDMI inputs, so you do not need to have your TV on. And there are people developing apps to add functionality as well http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMIsMjms_Zw

  • joser116

    Of course Chromecast isn’t AirPlay, it’s not meant to be. The Chromecast is NOT the equivalent of AirPlay; Google Cast is. The Chromecast is just simply the first device that supports the Google Cast standard. The Chromecast is equivalent to a product that supports AirPlay. There will be future products (docks, stereos, speaker systems) that will support the Google Cast standard that Google is still further developing.

  • Justin

    DURRRRR…….. or you could just but a $10 hdmi to 3.5mm analog converter and easily connect cromcast to any old audio device, just like airplay. http://gigaom.com/2014/02/08/how-i-turned-my-chromecast-into-a-45-networked-audio-adapter/