By Dan Allen
Today, 10 percent of U.S. homes with Internet service have a voice-controlled speaker (like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple HomePod). Just one year ago, that number was 3 percent.
According to a report from Juniper Research, smart devices like the Google Home will be installed in 55 percent of U.S. households by the year 2022. Over 70 million households will have at least one of these smart speakers in their home, and the total number of installed devices will top 175 million.
While Amazon’s Alexa currently dominates the smart speaker market by a share of 3:1 over the Google Home (according to a study by Edison Research), Google Home offers features in the A/V realm that Alexa doesn’t.
Google Home’s secret weapon may be Chromecast, a piece of technology that lets you stream your favorite music, videos, and apps from your phone, tablet or laptop right to your TV or speakers.
Google Home integrates with an array of smart home control systems. One of Chromecast’s stand-out features versus other streaming audio services is the music will not be interrupted by smartphone notifications.
Here are eight features that make Google Home with Chromecast a worthwhile addition to your home:
- Chromecast Works With Every Major Music Service
Chromecast, of course, is backed by Google, and the company has done a great job getting app developers and music providers on board with Chromecast. There are now thousands of app developers working on either porting over existing versions of apps, or creating new ones specifically for Chromecast.
Currently, Chromecast audio apps include Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Deezer, Napster, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Amazon Music (Android only).
- Works With Architectural Speakers
Chromecast isn’t just for standalone speakers, as it can also be used for custom installed architectural speakers. VSSL is currently the only company making a multichannel amplifier that is Chromecast built-in certified. It can power three or six zones of audio.
- Huge Chromecast Built-in Speaker Ecosystem
Google has partnered with audio manufacturers to create Chromecast built-in speakers, soundbars, amplifiers, and receivers. These speakers range in price point and audio quality: budget-level speakers (Vizio) to high-fidelity speakers (Bang and Olufsen).
Moreover, the audio zones can be extended to receivers, with Pioneer, Integra, Onkyo, and Sony all having models with Chromecast built-in. Most of these models autoplay as soon as they are connected via Chromecast.
Even if these Chromecast built-in products don’t suit your style, you can always add on the $30 Chromecast Audio dongle.
- True Multiroom Audio
Whether a system setup has a Google Home, a Chromecast Audio, Chromecast built-in speaker/receiver, or a VSSL-powered in-ceiling system, you can use it as part of a multiroom music system. This is thanks to Chromecast’s ability to work cross-device. All you do is select the music you want to hear in a music app, and the Google Home app does the rest.
- Cross-Platform Compatibility: iOS, Android, and More
Google’s Chromecast streams media to Android phones and tablets, iPhones and other iOS devices, Windows, and Mac OS X. That’s right, Chromecast works with Apple products, too. You can stream your favorite music from your iPad to Chromecast built-in speakers. Additionally, you can stream audio from a Chrome web browser to any speaker.
- Phone Calls Will Not Interrupt a Cast
Here, Chromecast succeeds where AirPlay failed. Originally, AirPlay was the easiest way to transmit media from an iPhone to a larger screen or bigger speaker, but for audio, it was almost unusable because of one annoying feature: the notifications. AirPlay would disrupt the volume whenever a notification or call came in.
This doesn’t happen on Chromecast, because it does a handshake with the servers and streams directly from the Internet. Your phone is merely the remote. So if the phone rings, gets a text, etc. the music will never stop.
- Custom Smart Home Integration
Google Home works with over 1,000 smart home devices including lights, switches, plugs, and thermostats from companies including Crestron, URC, Leviton, Lutron, and Nest.
One cool thing you can do with Google Home and Nest is configure the Nest doorbell chimes and user announcements to play over Google Home speakers.
Expect to see more of this type of integration to come from other players.
- Voice-Enabled Audio
Voice control with Google Home and a Chromecast built-in speaker is as easy as it gets. Unlike Alexa where you have to specify the speaker name every time in order to playback on another speaker, Google Home allows you to default the music playback to a speaker.
So all you do is request the music, “Hey Google, play music,” and it comes on via your in-ceiling speaker system (through VSSL or other Chromecast built-in speakers).
Note: For voice control services, you are limited to the services that work on the Google Home itself and not all the Chromecast-enabled apps. Those services are Spotify, Pandora, Google Music, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio.
Dan Allen is president and co-founder of VSSL, a Utah-based audio manufacturer.
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