We’ve all been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Disney+ for quite some time now. With the support for Chromecast, Chromebooks, and Android all part of the launch plan, Disney’s new streaming service will clearly be something of interest for many Chromebook users across the spectrum. While there are some great things about this new media service right out of the gate, there are a few other things you need to know when using it on your Chromebook. Let’s take a look.
The Web Portal & Player
First up, for Chromebook users (and any other desktop OS, too), Disney+ works great right from your browser. Sometimes these things launch and the web takes a bit of a backseat to native apps, but it looks like Disney has done a great job at making the experience quite good on the web right out of the box.
There is a hiccup that started showing up late this morning where the home screen is throwing an error, so you won’t see any content until you search for something by name or click one of the menu items up top. That seems to have resolved at this point, but you need to know that it is an issue you may run into for the next few days.
The entire interface looks great, works great, and we were up and running with the first episode of The Mandalorian in no time. The picture was crisp in Full HD and the playback controls are simple and work well, too. Honestly, it doesn’t stray too far from what makes Netflix on the web so great, so Disney did a good job of nailing the basics for the web player.
The Android App
Oddly enough, the Disney+ app isn’t hidden in the Play Store on Chromebooks. Instead, you are free to install it and run it with ease, but there are some pretty big problems. For one, it won’t run in full screen. This is an issue for both Chromebooks and tablets alike. I’m unsure what the holdup is, but I’d assume Disney is working on a fix for this since they’ve left the app discoverable in the Play Store.
Second, and most troubling, is the fact that even though the app is clearly just running in a phone-only mode, there’s no way to get your video in a full screen layout. When you go full screen, the video sits in a tiny box in the center of your screen and is barely usable at all. It’s a real bummer not only for Chromebook users, but for the Android tablet users out there as well. Not shockingly, the app works fine on my iPad, so I’d assume Disney will roll out proper large-screen support for the Android app post haste.
With both the web and app experience, you can easily cast your content to the big screen with familiar, simple, and accessible Chromecast controls just like you’d expect. When casting, video looks great and play/pause/skip functions work just as you’d expect as well.
We’ve not had a chance to test the service on a 4K screen with Chromecast Ultra, but Disney contends its content is 4K and HDR ready, so we’d assume you could fire up a Marvel movie on your 4K TV with a Chromecast Ultra with little to no issue from both the app and the web player.
Though there are serious issues with the Android app right now, casting still works just fine if for whatever reason you’d like to start a new casting session from an Android app instead of the web player on a Chromebook.
Finally, the download functionality leaves a bit to be desired for Chromebook users as well. Downloads work great in the Android app and are completely absent from the web player. This isn’t exactly shocking, but it is a let down for users wanting to take a movie or two on the plane with them via a Chromebook. Sure, you can download with the Android app, but playback is in such a small window, it is useless. Playback is great on the web, but you can’t download for offline use. It’s a bit of a catch-22.
This is a conundrum that could be solved in one of two ways: fix the Android app (easy solution) or figure out how to leverage downloads via the web player (highly unlikely). No one has cracked that second one just yet, so I doubt Disney will spend the time to figure out a way around it. I’m not sure whether it is a limitation of the web or DRM, but streaming services just don’t tend to allow downloading content from the web.
So, on day one, there are some upsides and downsides of using Disney+ on a Chromebook. It’s mostly upside and with a little tweaking to the Android app, I think Chromebooks will offer a fantastic and well-rounded experience with the new streaming service. Disney just needs to take the proper steps in making its Android app a whole lot better on the big screen.