If you can’t tell by now, we’re big fans of the new Chromecast with Google TV. As a streaming device, it is versatile. As a gaming dongle, it will be fantastic in a few months as services catch up. And as a cast device, it is every bit as flexible as Chromecast devices that have come before. It is in most ways the update to to the standard Chromecast formula that everyone has been asking for and will be a runaway hit for Google at its very-attractive $49 price point.
There’s a glaring misstep with the device right now that can’t go unannounced, however, and that is the lack of ability to switch between user accounts. With the profile avatar set up in the right hand corner, you get the sense that there is a quick way to swap profiles on the new Chromecast, but that is misleading. Instead, all you can do is add other accounts on the device for use with services that can take advantage. While that sort of sounds like proper account switching, it definitely is not.
For instance, I can log out of my account in YouTube TV and then log my wife in so she can see her DVR content, but there’s no way to simply swap back and forth. It is this way with all the apps that use Google accounts to differentiate content. YouTube and YouTube Music come to mind as other examples of this. Again, this isn’t a deal-breaker, but an annoyance nonetheless.
The real issue with account switching on Google TV
The glaring issue comes down to the fact that the main Google TV interface itself is locked to a single user. This means that my Chromecast at home will fill the automatic, user-specific content recommendations to my preferences, not those of my family members. For a service/hardware that aims to suggest relative content to all potential users based on their actual usage, this is a pretty big flaw.
Sure, most households have a single Netflix or Hulu account, but they don’t have a single YouTube, YouTube TV, or YouTube Music account. And in Hulu or Netflix, you get the opportunity up front to swap users so the preferences match the person watching at the time. If the single Google account that is the primary account on the Chromecast is now being filled with user interactions from multiple people in a house, how is that going to be helpful for any of those users?
I watch very different content compared with my wife and my kids, yet we’ll all be using the same Chromecast logged into only one of our accounts. Without logging completely out and back into the device (forcing it to be re-set up again), there’s no real way to get that recommended content on screen for each family member at this point, and that sort of stinks.
With Google’s bent towards easy account management and switching on platforms like Android and Chrome OS, I’d hope that we won’t have long to wait until Google makes the move to include easy account switching. After all, there’s already an avatar and fly-out menu in place right in the interface. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to add a few accounts and allow users to simply switch through them via that same menu.
Of all the Chromecast competitors out there, Apple TV is currently the only one that allows this sort of setup. As Apple has notoriously been stingy with multi-account switching on other platforms (hello, iPad), it feels odd that they’ve bested Google on this front with the Apple TV. I feel fairly confident that Google will get multi-user support baked in relatively soon, but I don’t have anything to base that on at this point other than Google’s track record with systems like Chrome OS that champion this sort of use case. Here’s hoping they don’t take too long to get it in place.