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2nd generation Chromecast
First up is the new Chromecast hardware itself, which you can see pictured above. Based on these images alone, it appears that the device is definitely a departure from the original model, leaving behind the true “dongle” form factor. That said, besides the fact that it comes in three colors, we still haven’t quite figured out what it is we’re looking at here. A balloon? A pair of ear muffs? Your guess is as good as ours. Google’s not only changing the appearance, though — this thing has a lot of changes coming to the inside as well.
While we haven’t seen the exact specifications of the new device, we have learned that one of the changes Google is bringing to this version is improved Wi-Fi, which could possibly mean support for the faster 802.11ac band. Phandroid previously surfaced FCC documents it claimed were for the next Nexus Player showing 802.11ac Wi-Fi support, but we’ve learned that those documents are actually describing this new Chromecast. The original Chromecast only supported 802.11b/g/n.
The 2nd generation Chromecast, which we’ve only seen referred to as the “new Chromecast,” is also going to include support for content feeds on the Chromecast home screen. It’s not clear yet what kind of “feeds” you’ll be able to add, but this probably means adding social media feeds or image feeds that can play when your Chromecast is in screensaver “backdrop” mode. Currently, the Chromecast backdrop is customizable in that you can toggle things like weather and art, as well as add your own personal photos.
There’s also a new feature called “Fast Play”. Presumably, along with the improved Wi-Fi features, “Fast Play” will allow Chromecast to establish a connection much quicker and play content more seamlessly when pressing the “Cast” button on a connected device. This is one area many users find frustrating with the current Chromecast, and if Google has made the experience anything close to this, Fast Play might be the device’s most compelling feature.
Not to be confused with Google Cast for Audio, which is Google’s platform for making speakers and other audio hardware directly compatible with the Chromecast protocols, Google is also planning to launch something called “Chromecast Audio”. According to the leaked documentation we’ve seen, it appears that this could allow your Chromecast to plug directly into any speaker by way of auxiliary cord, providing Chromecast support to any speaker or audio system in your home. This feature will, according to the documents, have multi-room support, the ability to mirror your Chrome or Android audio, and bring “high-quality” audio.
Update: We’ve learned that Chromecast Audio is indeed a second Chromecast device.
While Chromecast has long supported Google Play Music, Netflix, Pandora, and other subscription services, Spotify — one of the most popular music streaming services — has always been left off the list for Google’s device. According to leaked documents that 9to5Google has seen, Google is preparing a slew of Chromecast announcements for later this month, one of which being Spotify support for Chromecast.
Although Google offers its own Chromecast-supported streaming service in the form of Google Play Music, the company is clearly welcoming Spotify with open arms with this feature being a selling point of the new device. All the way back in 2014, Spotify said that it had no plans to support Chromecast and that it was focusing on its own “Connect” platform. Supporting Chromecast was never completely off the table, however, and now the feature seems all but certain.
Updated companion app
Based on the documents we’ve obtained, the new Chromecast app has at least a few notable additions over the current version (which is definitely very bare-bones in terms of features). First, there appears to be a section referred to as “What’s On,” which allows you to browse content offered through various Chromecast-supported apps. At least based on the screenshots and documents we’ve seen, the app will show you different movies, videos, and other content from within the apps you have installed on your device — not all too different from what Apple is offering with Siri and the new Apple TV coming next month.
On top of suggesting actual content, the app also seems to have a screen that shows you which Chromecast apps you have installed and suggests Chromecast-supported apps available on the Play Store. The current version of the app also has a “Discover apps,” tab, but it redirects to a page within the Play Store app. The app seems to serve as more of an intelligent hub to all the Chromecast-castable content found within your apps.
Finally, as you can tell in the admittedly blurry images to the right, the app is getting a new user interface. While it might still have the sidebar found in the current version, there also seems to be a section with tabbed navigation like that which can be found in the Play Store app.
September 29th event
According to the documents, the device and its new app, as well as support for Spotify and “Chromecast Audio,” are all currently scheduled to be announced at the company’s September 29th event, the same day that the two new Nexus devices are rumored to launch. The device will presumably be priced similar to the first generation Chromecast, and documents we’ve seen show that it will launch in at least 10 countries around the world.
Tom Maxwell contributed to this report.