Google has announced a new method for streaming audio and you'll want to pay attention: it's called Google Cast for Audio.
It capitalises on the success of Chromecast and it uses the same system to let you send audio to a compatible device, like a speaker or your home entertainment system.
As we know from using Chromecast, that means it's going to be really simple to use and integrated into lots of existing music services.
What is Google Cast for Audio?
Google Cast for Audio uses the same system as Chromecast, providing a connection between your cloud music and your speakers. Rather than sending your music from your phone to your speaker directly (as you might with Bluetooth), all you do is tell your speaker what to play.
The speaker then goes off and retrieves that stream for itself from the cloud, leaving your smartphone or tablet free to do other things.
Of course, that means we're talking about streaming audio from online sources.
What are the advantages of Google Cast for Audio?
The advantages of sending your audio via this method is that your phone is then essentially taken out of the loop. Your phone acts as a controller and that's it.
The speaker, as long as it is connected to your Wi-Fi network, will handle the stream, so you can have great quality from whatever source you're using, rather than having the smartphone as an unnecessary intermediary, dropping the signal each time you wander into the garage to get another beer.
The other advantage is that your speaker only needs to be compatible with Google Cast for Audio, rather than each individual music service you might want to use. It also means you don't have to use Bluetooth, and put up with notification beeps, incoming calls and everything else it might want to send.
As we've seen with Chromecast, it's likely to be compatible with both Android and iOS, so you can step around the Apple AirPlay lock-in with a system that's a little more universal.
What are the disadvantages of Google Cast for Audio?
You'll need to have compatible speakers to get it to work and it's likely that your legacy speakers won't do that. Whether it can be added as a software layer to existing hardware remains to be seen.
You'll also need the service to support Google Cast for Audio. Currently there's a healthy list of services that have signed up, but there's one glaring omission: Spotify.
Spotify has its own Spotify Connect system that allows you to control speakers directly from the Spotify app. Whether it will move over to accept Google Cast for Audio remains to be seen. We really hope it does.
What speakers work with Google Cast for Audio?
On day one it has been confirmed that HEOS by Denon will work with Cast for Audio.
LG and Sony are also listed by Google, with the promise of more speakers in the future. We've already spied LG Music Flow speakers in Google's promo video and it's Google's intention that you'll be able to cast to speakers, soundbars and AV receivers.
Broadcom, Marvell and MediaTek have been announced as hardware supporters, as well as Libre Wireless.
If you're a Chromecast user, you'll know you can already send a lot of audio to your Chromecast, for example from Play Music, so we suspect you'll be able to cast to a Chromecast dongle in your TV too.
What music services support Google Cast for Audio?
Google has already confirmed that Deezer, Google Play Music, iHeartRadio, NPR One, Pandora, Rdio and TuneIn will all support Google Cast for Audio, along with many more.
Yes, so the list of services that works with Chromecast.
And as we said previously, it's the lack of Spotify that's ominous at the moment.
When can I get Google Cast for Audio?
The first devices will be appearing in the US in March 2015. You can expect a number of speaker announcements confirming support in the future.
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