For much of the past decade, Google has maintained two different smart TV platforms: Chromecast and Android TV (formerly Google TV).
But now 9to5Google reports that the next Chromecast Ultra will be a full-fledged Android TV device. That means that in addition to streaming internet content to your TV while using your phone, laptop, or other gadgets as remotes… you’ll be able to use a physical remote control to browse a user interface and find, install, and run apps.
According to 9to5Google’s source, the new device is code-named “sabrina,” and it’ll be able to do everything a current-gen Chromecast Ultra can (including streaming 4K HDR content). And it’s expected to look a lot like the 3rd-gen Chromecast which currently sells for $35.
But with support for popular video streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and of course YouTube and Google Play Movies and no need to unlock your phone to use it, the new model could fit into the same niche as Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku’s Streaming Stick+.
Google hasn’t officially confirmed the existence of a new Chromecast Ultra yet, and 9to5Google only seems to have a single source for its report. But as leaks/rumors go, this one is certainly plausible — and there are a few pieces of supporting evidence:
- Janko Roettgers did spot an FCC listing today for a remote control for an unknown Google device.
- Google did recently release a tiny Android TV box aimed at developers called the ADT-3.
While the ADT-3 isn’t meant to be a consumer device (Netflix and Amazon Prime Video aren’t supported), it does show that Google is capable of producing a fully functional Android TV device small enough to hang from a small HDMI cord plugged into your TV.
If Google’s next Chromecast Ultra is indeed an Android TV dongle it’s unclear what, if anything, that would mean for the company’s entry-level Chromecast devices which stream video at 1080p resolutions and lack remote controls. It’s possible Google could keep that product line alive indefinitely for folks that want a cheaper, simpler solution. But with Chromecast functionality baked into most Android TV products, it’s also possible that the company could phase out standalone Chromecast products at some point.
My question is what this would mean for Google home devices. One reason that third party smart displays lag behind the Google offerings is that they are based on Android Things (itself based on Android while Google’s displays are based on Chromecast software (which is why in spite of loving my JBL Link view and wanting another, I am resisting the temptation of getting another at the current reduced price since I’ve no idea if it will get the new features coming to Google’s displays).
Hopefully this change means that they’ll change their hub devices tactics so that first or third party, there’s a better chance of everyone starting the same feature set. It’d be even better if Google took on responsibility for the updates like they do Chrome OS, which should be a lot easier given the reduced hardware variation, I think they’re actually only using two different CPUs (a mediatek one by Google and a Qualcomm by third parties).
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