The problem with Chromecast

When Google announced the Chromecast, their $35 streaming stick, Google seemed to have hit gold. A cheap, accessible streaming stick that you plugged into your TV, then forgot about. No remotes, just an app you downloaded to your phone or tablet(on Android and iOS)and you were set. Chromecast looked to be the cheap entertainment streamer to beat out everything else. Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBOGo, Google Play and YouTube were supported. What could possibly go wrong for the dream stream scenario?

Well, a lot. Having owned a Chromecast since launch. Bugs are everywhere with seemingly no fix in sight. Owning a Chromecast has proven to be more trouble than the paltry $35 price tag represents.

There are so many different bugs that I have encountered in my constant use of my Chromecast, I hardly know where to begin. With YouTube, I have constantly been kicked off my Chromecast for no reason, even though it claims I am still connected. The TV Queue is a hit or miss concept for Chromecast, seemingly overriding the queue in lieu of playing videos from earlier in the queue or whatever was just added. Half the time I select a video, it will kick itself off of Chromecast and back to my phone. Sometimes, it will play on both mediums at the same time.

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With Google Play Music, I have yet to play three consecutive songs without the stream failing on me. As for my internet connection, it is sitting at over 60mb/s for WiFi. The connection is not the issue, as it is easy to replicate these issues with multiple different Chromecasts in different locations. Google Play Music, whether it be from a phone, tablet, or laptop, is currently incapable of playing more than a handful of songs before disconnecting.

This all begs the question, why is all of this happening and why hasn’t it been fixed.

Google is a gigantic company. Chromecast was a huge success last year for Google, becoming the #1 streaming device for 2014. With over 1 billion casts completed and 10 million devices sold. Why does Chromecast still suffer from immense instability and horrendous bugs?

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The issues could stem from two completely plausible theories.

The first, is that Google simply hasn’t put the conscious effort to improve the experience on the Chromecast. Google has made money from the Chromecast. Even if margins are low for the hardware itself. Chromecast invites you into the ecosystem of Google Play. It also allows for ads to roll on the big screen through YouTube. All of that is money in the bank for Google. They might not be too concerned with the end user experience so long as the cash is flowing their way. This would be tragic for those invested in Google’s ecosystem. In contrast, Apple has long updated the AppleTV and been very diligent in keeping the experience fresh. I cannot recall the last time I saw a Chromecast update pushed to my device that improved my experience.

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The second, and more terrifying theory could be that the hardware the Chromecast holds inside is simply incapable of having consistent performance. This means that the future for this iteration of Chromecast is not going to be up to snuff as more and more entertainment demands become streaming based. In my usage of the Nexus Player, the Google Cast functionality was quite great. Not dropping videos, kicking me off the stream, or refusing to play music. So the functionality of the Cast option doesn’t seem to be the problem, but rather the hardware that drives it. For the price of $35, some issues are to be expected. The Chromecast is dirt cheap. But if the hardware cannot even handle the basic tasks that the Chromecast is advertised to do, that is a huge problem.

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Chromecast is broken. Chromecast flat out does not work. That is the problem with Chromecast, it does not function as advertised. One can excuse some bugs and hiccups because of the price. But the problems that exist with Chromecast are so debilitating that it is not worth one of your precious HDMI ports. If I have to shell out three times the dough for a consistent experience, so be it. But do not dangle(dongle?) false hope of a cheap streaming experience in front of me. The problems with Chromecast could very easily be fixable. They could also be impossible to fix. We simply do not know. The lack of clarity is a lose lose for Chromecast users everywhere.

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