Google Chromecast: Too Much Hassle For the Money

| Editorial

Modern digital fabrication technology has made is easy for companies to throw a product together for not much money. But what about the hassle that starts when you get it home?

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Last weekend, I was in Staples and saw this impulse buy bin, thrown together it seems, at the checkout line. If you don't recognize it, these are Google Chromecasts, seemingly in desperate need of a customer.

Won't you buy me?  Please? I'm cheap.

I should say at the outset that I think this is a fairly nifty device. It doesn't cost a lot, and it should be a lot of fun to play with. I've toyed with grabbing one myself.

Except.

There were people in line in front of me, and none of them gave the bin a second glance. I don't think they even knew what it was. The packaging certainly doesn't help -- it doesn't even have an image of a TV on the front of the package.

Complexity vs. Price

When I think about a device like this, I know it will sell well in certain circles. However, I think a lot of people ignore such a device because the personal (not product) complexity and commitment factors are just too high for the price.

By that, I mean that the average homeowner only has so much time in life to commit to each digital device. We have cameras and smartphones and tablets and Blu-ray players and TVs, just to name a few that have to be managed. It's often difficult to keep track of the operational concepts (and software updates) of so many devices.

When we do make a commitment, it has to be considered. We look at the cash outlay, but we also look at the impact in our lives. How useful will this device be? Will it require us to set up an account? (Oh, geez! Again? Another username and password! Seriously?) Often, the very process of creating an account, the myriad of probing questions, raises alarm bells about our privacy. Suddenly the dirt cheap price doesn't seem like such deal.

Such a device can weigh us down. It's another device to manage. Our ability to afford technology exceeds the available time to manage it all. Plus, because the device is so small, we'll have to learn how to operate it remotely. Another hassle.

Image Credit: Google

And then there's the tendency for our moden digital gadgets to monitor our activities. We have the sneaking suspicion that the device is watching us as much as we watch it. Now we know why it's so cheap. It's subsidized by the value of the information it collects about us.

Finally, while Google is a large and capable tech company, it doesn't have the hardware legacy that Apple does. Nor does it have the considerable infrastructure that Apple has built over many years. While Google is trying to quickly build an infrastructure around its hardware with Google Play, and while many Android fans appreciate that, the average consumer knows a lot about Apple's iPods and iTunes and Macs and its legacy as a hardware company. They don't know a lot about Google, except for search -- or why they should buy one of these inexpensive little gadgets that potentially creates so much indirect hassle once it gets home.

Even so, sales numbers for the Chromecast seem good. I think a lot of technically minded people will enjoy using it, and I may yet grab one for myself.

The 10,000 Meter View

The bigger picture in my mind, however, is that these cheap little digital devices can turn into a considerable burden all out of proportion to their price. I suspect this factor influences Apple's thinking about the price of its products. When the hassle factor is low and the price is that of a premium product, we know we'll be focusing on how it serves us. We're going to use it because of the commitment we made via what we paid.

This is a subtle thing that Apple brings to the market with its attention to a modest number of premium products that we trust to make our life better rather than embroil us in technical fussing.

It's no wonder these Chomecasts were thrown into a bin by Staples, hoping that the lure of the price would seduce the customer. It's a strategy very different from the Apple stores where a friendly salesperson can convey the value of that pricey product sitting on those beautiful wooden tables.

Then, it's easy to close the deal with the modern technical customer.

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Comments

geoduck

Will it require us to set up an account? (Oh, geez! Again? Another username and password! Seriously?)

It’s true of a lot of things, both hardware and software. Just today I was evaluating several iPad apps for work. Often it boiled down to does it require I set up an account (REJECT), or does it have obtrusive ads (REJECT), Something like an RDClient has no reason to have me log into the developers servers. I’m already logging into my RDServer. A calculator better well not have a pop up screen to buy the full version or buy our other apps. I have another critical app that I just deleted. It had served me well for nearly a year but suddenly the little bar of ads at the bottom became a full screen , non closeable, 15 second commercial for McDonalds each time I re dealt, ... er reloaded the app. It’s gone.

Developers need to pay attention to the hassle factor.

oneof52

I saw the same thing at Walmart.  I thought it was a discontinued generic item, until I really took a look at one.  Not the best way to market or present your goods.  It had the “low value item” treatment.

I didn’t pick one up.  I did get the last Xbox One.

Paul Natsch

I have two of these things and I think they’re great. And it’s quickly starting to get better and better now that is what dates have been open to a certain degree with the SDK.

I actually prefer the Chromecast approach to something like an Apple TV and a Roku because I’d much rather use the interfaces for the supported apps on my smartphone as opposed to the “10 foot interface” of some kind of set-top box or streaming box. It also puts the remote in the hands of anybody who has a recent enough Android or Apple Mobile device. The thing is also dead simple to use and easy to transport and set up at somebody else’s home.

However I do understand and agree with your assessment about people not understanding what it is or does. Lots of people don’t understand 80 to 90% of what their smart phones do for that matter so you’re going to have a hard time marketing something like this to those same people. It’s a niche product for sure.

geoduck

Paul Natsch
They could start with putting a picture of what it does on the box. If it didn’t have the word Chrome on the side I’d have assumed it was an overpriced USB drive. Chromecast doesn’t tell most people anything. How about a picture of a TV with something on the screen and a clearly highlighted Chromecast plugged into it?

ibuck

Geoduck, agreed about setting up accounts (Just say No), intrusive ads, etc.  Now, I’m reluctant to download any app that is “Free”, on expectation of such drawbacks, coupled with the developer’s tacit admission of what the app is worth. Even deleted some I had already downloaded.

Red flags appear if they don’t charge at least 99 cents, and I’m wary about those too.

Joe Tavormina

I switched to chromecast for my internet viewing and browsing because it had the least amount of hassle and setup. All you need to do to watch a video (youtube, netflix, browser) is select the chromecast icon on your phone ( iphone, android, or any laptop) and and the chromecast wiil turn on the TV and switch to the correct HDMI input. No need to find the TV remote and switch on the TV, then switch to the correct HDMI input, and then find the apple TV remote. My daughters can watch Netflix without the hassle of remote controls and dealing with HDMI inputs. just hit the chromecast icon and watch.

Constable Odo

That Chromecast is a product only nerd-brain could love.  Anyway it’s really great for Google to get a lot more Android activations from some cheap device.  I think it activates as a tablet.  Boo-yah.  It’s claimed that the Chromecast only costs Google about $5 in raw materials to make and the rest is clear profit.  That’s a good move on Google’s part.  They’re fleecing the suckers even better than Apple is.  It’s no wonder Google is now the favorite tech company on the planet.  However, the cheap, little Chromecast dongle is only one step from bargain bin to landfill because it has to compete with all those other cheap, little HDMI Android stick devices.

Jonathan Stein

Joe: Not all TVs support that. I can’t remember exactly what it’s called, but it’s an HDMI feature of some sort.

I think ti’s just Google trying to throw things against the wall to see what sticks. They are trying to squeeze into the TV market, despite the failure of Google TV. This is their “answer” to AirPlay. The apps on it are pretty generic.. smart tv kind of stuff, or stuff that’s on the Roku/etc.
There’s so many cheap Chinese android TV sticks though. Wow.

Personally, I much prefer the AirPlay system and the Apple TV. I’d love to see Apple drop the Apple TV price a little bit, though. They have quite a bit of competition in the area. This is Google’s MO - throw some product out there at a cut rate price. Lame.

Andrew Shalat

I look to Mac Observer for insight, but this article is not of that ilk. You’re complaining about the sales presentation of the product and you make claims about its complexity and yet I see nothing in the article that gives us any details other than a snooty dismissal because it was in a bin. From what I’ve read this product is easy to set up, has support in the iOS app, and seems to have a great price point. So what is your beef? I’m no apologist for Google. If you google my name you’ll find I’m deeply entrenched in the Mac OS. But I find this article insulting to my intelligence, and a disservice to all those who want honest information.

R H

Ridiculousy biased article written out of desperation for the writer to come up with a story at the last minute.

First, there is not much to “manage.” You simply plug it in, enter your Wi-Fi password and that’s it.And since most people have a smartphone or tablet in their hands a lot of the time watching videos, pressing the Cast icon sends it to the TV. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Secondly, for $35 it can’t be beat. Period.

Thirdly, I’d rather watch my media on a big screen TV than a small screen. Tap the Cast icon and voila, it’s on the big screen.

“Manage.” I guess for a simpleton this could be a problem. But for someone with half a brain it’s a great addition to your entertainment system.

Idon't Know

I’ve tried Apple TV, Roku 3, and Chromecast.  I kept the Roku 3 because it had by far the most content and features.  Chromecast is for sure a case of you get what you pay for.  Poor video quality, poor wifi with no 5ghz which is crazy for a streamer, plus Google collects data on everything you do and sells it.  But I thought it was worth a try.  Not at all impressed with chromecasting and remember when you use the Chrome browser Google tracks everything you do with it.

R H

Interesting that comments to the contrary are being deleted from the comments section.  Journalist integrity out the window.

R H

My mistake. Took three refreshes for them to reappear.

ButcherChop

I bought my first Chromecast when they first came out. I LOVED IT. I have bought 2 more for my home and 4 others as gifts. Its so easy to set up and since I’m always on my phone, it’s easy to search on phone and send to TV. My nephews all have phones and they take turns picking out YouTube videos and movies. They enjoyed it so much I bought them one. It really is the way to go. No longer do I have to use the search feature on Apple TV, my Xbox or PS3. Its such a pain in the ass compared to the Chromecast. I highly recommend this gadget. For $35 its totally worth the money. This article is so wrong.

Mestragon

Too much hassle for the money? Are you NUTS? Or just a troll? Seriously, what gives?

IT COSTS $35. It has got to have one of the highest cost to functionality ratios of any consumer electronic product EVER, from the beginning of electricity. There is no contest.

It is RIDICULOUSLY easy to use, with new services being added regularly. Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and YouTube, thrown to my TV from my iPhone (seemingly, though that’s not what’s going on under the hood) with SUPERB quality. I have remarked to my wife several times that I think it’s the best purchase I’ve made all year.

If some nobody company had come out with this, it would be hailed as a small miracle. But it’s Google, so it just seems like no big deal. But credit where credit is due: they did this right and, frankly, as a DEDICATED iConsumer, Apple could learn a LOT from this clever little dongle.

Joe Tavormina

Jonathan: I tested 3 TV sets and one of them did not support the HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). It would have to be a newer model TV 2010 and up or smart TV to support this feature. You are right that this is Google throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. The Chromecast sticks. The problem with airplay is that it ties up your phone. With chromecast you cast your video and then you can use your phone for other tasks. (you can even turn off the phone and the video will keep playing). The chrome cast is not tied to any account like apple airplay, any one can cast , iphone, android, macbook, laptop, desktop, without signing in to an account. Cast some Netflix movie from your phone to your TV, then pick up your iPad to pause playback, and resume it with a Kindle Fire. No accounts and device agnostic.

Trevor Heisler

This device couldn’t be easier to operate. If you already have a tablet, smartphone or laptop, you can use the Chromecast - you don’t need to set up a separate account, you don’t need to learn anything new, and set up is a breeze. Just plug it in to your TV’s HDMI port, and if you know how to use your tablet or smartphone, the rest pretty well takes care of itself. Then its just a matter of finding something you would like to watch on your phone, tablet or laptop and pressing the cast icon to push it to your TV. A simple YouTube search for Chromecast will show you how easy this is to set up and use.

webjprgm

Would people prefer that Apple make the AppleTV be a $35 HDMI dongle like this, or keep $100 price but open up to 3rd party apps?  Just curious.

I really like the idea of Chromecast (smaller and easier to use), but I already have an AppleTV (which I use almost exclusively as an AirPlay receiver) so I don’t need another gadget to do the same.

Ipazzport Zhou

Unisen iPazzPort Cast is a mini engine to turn your Home HD Screen become a All Media Sharing Center with full screen by Smart phone or tablet.

Paul Chen

First time visiting Mac Observer… judging from the fact that the site is called “Mac Observer” I’m not surprised at the ignorant title. Ignorant post. People freak out about how Google might be watching us… when they don’t find it surprising to see the ITunes suggestions based on what you listen to.

John Martellaro

Mr. Chen.  Thanks for coming by.  Note that this article was not a product review!  Rather it was a personal essay on how it easy it is for inexpensive digital gadgets to have the potential to sap our time and attention. Chromecast was just an example, the conversation starter.

I should say at the outset that I think this is a fairly nifty device. It doesn’t cost a lot, and it should be a lot of fun to play with. I’ve toyed with grabbing one myself.

Paul Chen

@John Martellaro
I find it ignorant because you went to Staples, you saw a the Chromecast in a bargain bin like location. Then instead of grabbing one to write about it, you write an essay on the premise that the Staples you went to have it in a bin because “clearly” Google asked Staples to put it there. Then you formulate multiple reasons why the device is not worth the troubles despite having used the product. If you’re really a “tech” enthusiast, why not pick one up and check it out?

Device Management: This device is one of the least to manage. It is essentially an endpoint. The only management is the initial set up to have it connect to Wifi which I will add is surprisingly easy with their initial network multicast broadcast. There’s no interface for you to manage. The only time that will happen is when you need to change your Wifi password. One of the things most people don’t know is that Chromecast supports HDMI-CEC, it allows the device to automatically choose the correct HDMI input on your TV when you start a video. This reduces management even further.

Monitoring: The device requires no login. You don’t log into any Google account. Any information it collects becomes a statistic at best. Any monitoring would be done on the App level, and it’s up to the Netflix or Hulu to decide if they want to sell your souls to Google for them.

Your argument about average consumer knowing “a lot” about Apple’s legacy in hardware is only true to a certain extent. Consumers are aware of the Apple products as a result of Apple’s marketing. The current generation of “Apple fans” knows very little about hardware and have really been brainwashed to be materialistic. So much of the Android vs Apple debates on the internet have resulted in less than intelligent comments like “Cheap plastic” or “Android is for the poor”.

Define “premium product” because the generation of materialistic idiots have defined it as “no cheap plastic”. If something cost 3 times more than another product, it doesn’t mean that product is “premium”. What makes you think the Chromecast has such a high level of “hassle” while the Apple TV (closest counterpart) doesn’t. You worked at Apple before, so it’s hard for you to look at the “big picture”.

And no, I do not have a beef with Apple products, I use everything from Mac Book Pros to Linux, Androids, iPhones, Roku, Samsung, Sony. I don’t judge a product based on the looks.

JaiRomeo

There are so many incorrect statements in this article, it has to be a sarcastic joke. The device works with any TV with an hdmi port and all that is needed to set it up is to download the app and connect to your wifi. You never enter a user name or password into Chromecast. You log in from your phone,  Tablet, PC or laptop and press the case button in the app or Chrome browser. Also, where is there a commitment? You pay nothing for owning a Chromecast after the initial purchase. YouTube is free and so it the Google Music app, both which can be casted. Netflix, Hulu Plus and all future like services people will have anyway. This is just a way to get it to your TV. Do you also think Smart TVs are commitments because they have apps? I already pay for HBO so I get HBO Go included there too, no extra commitment.

I have my Chromecast connected on both my Android tablet, my iPad, my Android phone, my wife’s iPhone, my laptop, my desktop. It took a whopping 30 min to set up 6 devices. So wow, look at that, I have Android, Apple and Microsoft devices all working in tandem together without bashing any of the companies like a blind sheep passing itself.

My 5 year old step daughter knows how to grab any of the device’s, open Netflix, YouTube or Hulu Plus and play a video and cast it. Maybe she should write for this site, she at least knows how to use a device and how easy it is.

Julian Hardy

“Too much hassle for the money”?

Good lord!

a) It’s so little money
b) It’s hassle-free

I’d love to know what you think of the Apple TV - similar functionality for three times the price, and it doesn’t work across multiple platforms!

Don Dudas

I have to agree 110% with Paul Chen. This article chimes across in true elitist fashion. The “facts” couldn’t be further from the truth. My 4yr old can cast videos to the TV no problem! Maybe John Martellaro is not quite at that tech level to handle such a daunting task. And yes, she can do it from both her iPod and my Nexus 7.

Constable Odo.…how much do you think Apple TV costs to produce? I bet it’s not more than $5.00 either. Do who really is fleecing their customers? I suppose you have to pay for those fancy wooden tables and"experts” somehow huh? Shame when you need to have experts to explain your product to your “tech savvy” consumers! It doesn’t activate as anything, so there is no inflation of deployed Android resulting from it. If you knew anything, you would know it runs stripped down Chrome OS and not Android so there goes your argument over inflation numbers.

Mike Canady

The Chromecast was definintely the easiest “technology” item I’ve ever setup, especially involving wiffi. Works in no time and works well!

Incredibly easy to use with a phone, computer or tablet, just download the app and click the cast button on your screen and there it is on your tv. What’s the problem?  SERIOUSLY DUDE!

Dave LaCivita

Are you a serious writer? If you are going to say the hassle isn’t worth the price please describe the hassle.

Aric Wilisch

I can agree with a couple of the arguments but not all. Yes they need to do a much better job of displaying these things. They need to give the stores specific instructions on how to display them. I’m starting to see more TV ads at least.

Some people have said the Chromecast is Google trying to get into the TV market but I think it’s their answer to the market. Google has a history of throwing a product out, learning from its shortcomings, then putting out the finished product. Chromecast isn’t them trying to figure it out though, GoogeTV was. Chromecast is what they learned from the the experience. Now they’ll take what they learn from Chromecast and make the new AndroidTv better.

I have both infrastructures, Apple and Google, and I think Google’s is easier and more flexible. Apple TV, you get what they give you. Chromecast, you can stream anything to it as long as you can open it in Chrome or there is a supported app, no google account needed, unlike Apple where you almost have to have n Apple store I’d.

Just my thoughts on it.

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