Airfoil, a MacOS app that is meant to stream audio to multiple connected devices, has just announced the addition of Chromecast support for its app. While it isn’t a new idea for apps to get Chromecast support, lets look at this for a second and see why it matters.
Airfoil has been around for some time, providing MacOS and Windows users with a single place to stream audio to multiple connected speakers. Airplay and Bluetooth can do some cool things, but lack important features for whole-home audio.
Let’s start with Bluetooth. Pairing devices can be a bit of a pain, to be completely honest. We’ve all been there: turn on Bluetooth, nothing recognized, turn off Bluetooth and count to ten, repeat. Added to this pain point, your source device also has to be in a relatively tight, 30 foot proximity to keep your connection smooth.
Most homes with speakers spread about are going to eclipse this distance pretty quickly.
That’s not to say I don’t like or use Bluetooth. It has some great features and use-cases, but whole-home or whole-office audio isn’t a place where it excels.
Next is AirPlay. To be honest, when Apple first came out with AirPlay, it was pretty revolutionary. Streaming audio and video wirelessly became simple and effective. But, if you weren’t in Apple’s ecosystem, you didn’t get to play. Apps like Airfoil close that gap a bit, giving Windows users the ability to AirPlay from their devices too, but 3rd party AirPlay has never worked like it does from an Apple device in my experience.
Secondly, AirPlay is a device-restricted streaming solution. What I mean by that is when you AirPlay a song or video, the resources are being used on your device. Your phone or laptop is the one streaming and sending the signal out over the network. This again hamstrings users to have to stay put if they want the music to go on. It also requires their device keep the streaming app open and running the entire time.
Not great for battery or multitasking.
The Chromecast Solution
Chromecast solves these issues beautifully. Since the device handling the cast (i.e. – Chromecast or Chromecast Audio) has it’s own connection to the internet and its own processing power, once the songs get cued up, the Chromecast does all the work. If I begin a playlist and need to leave the party, the music goes on since the Chromecast has already loaded in the playlist. Resources from my phone are not being used and once I start the music, I can go back to whatever I was doing on my device prior.
Seeing streaming apps, especially ones made for MacOS, pick up and begin using the Google Cast API means even the mighty Apple has to tip it’s cap to the success and brilliance of Chromecast.
While I don’t see Apple bending enough to allow it’s first party apps to have Chromecast support anytime soon, I think every service around them now feels the need to have the Google Cast API ready and available to it’s users, even users that are all-in on Apple products.
Even more interesting is the face that Airfoil for Windows doesn’t have this feature yet. With Apple wanting its customers to stay in-house with most features and UI elements, seeing companies get Cast support into their apps is a sign that Chromecast has infiltrated the market in a permanent way.
And, being pretty big fans of all things Chrome, this makes us smile just a little bit.