Google Chromecast, the thumb-sized media streaming device that plugs into the HDMI port on a TV, has been launched in New Zealand and is available for purchase at various electronic retailers.
Selling for a standard retail price of $61, the device enables users to connect mobile devices, tablets and smartphones to the TV and then access apps on the bigger screen.
As explained by the Google Chromcast page:
"With Chromecast, your phone is your personalised remote control. You can use it to search and browse, play, pause, rewind, control the volume and even make playlists. While casting, you’re free to use your phone for other things. Your friends and family can cast to the TV using their own phone or tablet too – with no additional setup required. Everyone can sit back and enjoy together on the biggest screen in the home."
The device is often compared to the Apple TV, but at less than half the price it offers a much more affordable means by which to give a television the connectivity that's conducive to streaming shows. But as is to be expected with the lower price, the functionality of Chromecast is more limited than that offered by the Apple product.
In a review posted on Gizmodo when Chromecast was launched in Australia last year, writer Andrew Tarantola said: "Hundred-dollar boxes like Apple TV come with way more apps pre-loaded with other services and store applications that you can’t yet find on the Chromecast. Live game streaming services like MLB League Pass and NHL Open Ice are huge draws but, aren’t available directly from Google’s offering either ... there's a lot of stuff that Chromecast can't do yet."
But despite these limitations, the product is already showing strong growth in the more mature US market at a time when both Apple TV and Roku and suffering slumps in sales (graph credit: Quartz).
And given the success of the product abroad, it comes as little surprise that both Quickflix and Pandora have already jumped aboard and announced that their services are available on the Chromecast interface.
"We’re delighted to be the first subscription and pay-per-view movie and TV streaming service in New Zealand to be available via Chromecast," said Quickflix managing director Paddy Buckley in a statement, which also included news of the company's release of The Dark Horse. "It is so simple and easy to use, and we believe it will be a big hit for existing streaming customers, as well as Kiwis who have yet to discover streaming. Both affordable and portable, it’s also the perfect device to take away with you over the holidays."
Subscription video on-demand newcomer Lightbox has not yet launched a Chromecast app, but a spokesperson says the company is keeping an eye on the service.
"We're always looking at new ways to bring our great content to big screens in Kiwi households and Chromecast being available in New Zealand is an interesting opportunity."
Pandora's director of business development for Australia and New Zealand Rick Gleave also sees value in being on the service, because it puts music-streaming service on another device.
"Having Pandora now on Google Chromecast means users have another easy access point to a better listening experience direct from their TV,” he said.
Here are some of the apps already available:
The Chromecast device will also come as good news for Netflix users that are currently accessing the SVOD service through the backdoor offered by the global mode features on internet service providers such as Slingshot.
Poised to launch in new Zealand early next year, Netflix will also see this as good news, because it could very well extend the reach of the service beyond those that are willing to splash out on a smart TV or an Apple TV.
According to various online forums, users could potentially access services for which no apps have been created, but the steps involved are often complicated and they would likely dissuade users from putting in the effort. What this means is that companies will have to invest in the development of apps if they want their service on Chromecast.
And given that the SVOD market is becoming increasingly competitive, it's likely that the other players will do just that and follow in the footsteps of Pandora and Quickfilx.