For those unfamiliar, the Chromecast Audio plugs into any traditional speaker and lets you stream music to that speaker from Chromecast enabled phones, tablets and other devices. You can network one or more Chromecast Audios with a Google Home device and you’ve built yourself a Sonos-like, voice-enabled, whole-house sound system for a fraction of Sonos’s healthy premium. This also allows you to set up groups of speakers, e.g., one group just for certain rooms, another for the entire house, etc. And the groups are all voice-enabled, so we can say, “Okay Google, play Halsey on the first floor speakers” (Halsey is a popular musical artist, right?).
On top of that, you’ll have a smart speaker-enabled household (provided you’re comfortable with the inherent privacy concerns) that lets you control smart bulbs, plugs, thermostats, etc. It generally works really well and in many ways, it’s the kind of seamless experience that I once would have expected out of a connected home experience from Apple.
We were a committed AirPlay household for a long time, actually, but Apple neglected that standard so much—kept it proprietary and under-delivered with the Home Pod—that the Google alternative became too tempting to resist. Now we’re a Google household with a Google Home in the kitchen and a series of Google Home Minis spread all over the house. Our favorite feature is the broadcast functionality which lets us use the devices like an intercom system, saving us the trouble of hollering between floors for everyone to come to the table for dinner, etc.
I’m actually surprised that Google is discontinuing the Chromecast Audio in the face of Apple’s recent renewed interest in AirPlay—it was announced last week that AirPlay is coming to smart TVs for the first time. In fact, I’d gladly switch back to AirPlay if Apple were to bring Alexa- or Google Assistant-quality services to Siri underpinned by Apple’s much more appealing privacy approach. In the meantime though, Google Home is the solution for us. In fact, I took took advantage of the clearance pricing and bought two more Chromecast Audios, just for good measure.