Google plans to replace its best-selling Chromecast streaming dongle with a new gadget, sources claim. A series of leaks have revealed an all-new HDMI-connected gadget with a Bluetooth remote similar to the one that ships with the likes of the Roku Streaming Stick+, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV 4K.
As you’d expect from Google, the remote has a microphone and dedicated Google Assistant button to control content, volume and more with your voice. According to the latest rumours, you’ll also be able to control other Google Assistant-compatible devices, like any nearby smart lighting or a central heating system, like Google-owned Nest. The remote can be used to control your TV – like a universal remote, sources say.
Of course, this is all a world away from the current-generation Chromecast, which can only be controlled by loading videos within your smartphone or tablet streaming apps, before beaming the episode or movie to the big screen with a tap of the Cast button.
If you need to pause your show, you’ll need to shout to a nearby Google Home, or pull-out your phone.
There’s no doubt that a dedicated remote control will make it a little easier to perform this daily function. It also means viewers at home will be able to tune-in to Disney+ and Netflix shows even if they don’t have a smartphone – perfect for younger family members hoping to watch something on the TV. That’s not something that works with the current Chromecast.
The new Google-designed device will be powered by the same Android TV software that currently powers a number of Smart TV models, including those built by Phillips and OnePlus. Since this isn’t a new operating system, there are already a bucketload of streaming apps, games and social media services in the Play Store.
That means developers won’t need to create new versions of their services for the new hardware – a huge positive for Google given how competitive the market is. When there are already streaming devices from Roku, Amazon, and Apple with the vast majority of streaming services and games available to download, waiting for Google to get the same level of support could’ve been a real turn-off.
According to leaked images published by XDA Developers, Google will opt for a friendly-looking pendant that hangs from the HDMI port at the back of your television – a little like the Chromecast. Following the recent move to rebrand its Google Home connected home devices under the new Google Nest branding, it seems the Chromecast successor will also be branded under the Google Nest name too.
What that final product name will be is anyone’s guess. At the moment, the device is only identified by its codename – Sabrina.
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As for price, previous whispers suggest Google will be asking for around $80 (roughly £64). That’s much costlier than the Fire TV Stick range from Amazon and Roku-branded rivals, but more reasonable than anything from Apple. It’s unclear whether the more affordable Chromecast will be sticking around – with a price cut, perhaps – as an alternative for those who don’t want to cough up for the remote.
Google was scheduled to hold its annual developer conference last month, however, the event was canned due to the ongoing public health crisis. If the event had gone ahead, it seems like the ideal time for Google to announce a new streaming device to consumers and third-party developers.
As it stands, there’s no rumoured release date for Sabrina. However, given the features purportedly coming to the Chromecast successor, we hope it’s not far away.