Faster than using a phone

Hidden talent: Using Android Wear to control a Chromecast

Even though I’ve been using the Sony Smartwatch 3 for nearly a week, I’m still learning about little features that aren’t readily advertised by Google or its Android Wear partners. The latest one is using the watch to control my Chromecast, which is actually easier and quicker on the wrist than it is on a phone.

To set the stage: I used to use a [company]Microsoft[/company] Xbox One to stream Pandora and other music services in my home office. About two weeks ago, I realized it would be more power-efficient — and I’m all about saving that precious electricity since we create most of our own — to use a Chromecast for the same thing.

A few days ago, while streaming [company]Google[/company] Play Music from my Moto X to my Chromecast, I noticed the currently playing track appearing on my smartwatch. I initially thought it was just a notification that wasn’t actionable. Boy was I wrong.

Instead, the watch acts like a basic remote control for the Chromecast, even though it’s technically routing the commands through my phone. I can play or pause the track, skip between tracks or even give a song the Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down treatment. Best of all, the basic play/pause functionality is just a single swipe away at any time: Swiping up on Android Wear in this case surfaces the currently playing track card.

The functionality even extends to video playback. Last night, for example, my family and I watched the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from season two through Google Play. (Note: Being the geek I am, I watch this show religiously; my family is just waking up getting caught up.). Sure enough, once I started the stream from my phone to the Chromecast, the same currently playing card appeared on my Smartwatch 3 with similar controls.

Agents of Shield control Android Wear

Phil Coulson frozen in limbo

Overall, it’s much easier and quicker to use the watch for Chromecast control. There’s no need to get your phone in hand, unlock it and navigate to the app or playback controls. Instead, one quick swipe on the watch is all it takes to get started. And it just works: Commands from the watch are routed to the media app on the phone over Bluetooth, which are then forwarded to your Chromecast.

Obviously I was sold on an Android Wear watch before this, or I wouldn’t have bought one. This is like icing on the cake because I’m using this feature multiple times a day on a regular basis.

7 Responses to “Hidden talent: Using Android Wear to control a Chromecast”

  1. Andria Tay

    Unfortunately Android Wear does not work with anything besides Google Play out of the box (I’m using a Samsung Gear Live). I downloaded a trial app (Wear Play I think it was) to try to control my Sonos, which it sort of did, when it didn’t get confused and start playing local music on my phone instead – d’oh!

  2. Ever since I heard about Android Wear, I was hoping something like this would be implemented. I was surprised and disappointed when Android Wear hit the scene and basically none of the reviews mentioned this functionality, because it was the first thing I would have tested. Honestly though, until I can say to my watch “OK Google, play the next episode of Modern Family on Family Room” and it turns on the TV and starts playing, I’m not going to be interested. Using my Nexus 7 to control the Chromecast works pretty well as is.

    My major complaint about Google’s handling of the Chromecast right now would be the lack of an instant replay/skip back button on the lock screen. Roku has this built into their remote, the Fire TV accomplishes it with a left arrow click, and Netflix has a button on Lollipop’s lock screen. However, Google Play Movies and TV refuses to implement this important feature. It’s not possible to know from your images, but it looks like Google has failed once again to include that simple button on Android Wear. Why should someone be forced to unlock their phone every time they want to skip back? Just copy Netflix and every other competitor and put the button on there.

  3. It’s unclear to me if this is something baked into Android itself or something which individual apps are implementing. Have you tried it with anything else? Netlfix or Hulu+ or HBOGo?

    • Super question, Mike. I don’t use Hulu+ or HBOGo but I just tested with Netflix and the controls don’t appear on Android Wear. That suggests that even if an app has Chromecast support (which Netflix does) it would need to add the code for Android Wear support as well. Should be relatively simple but I suspect developers won’t make it a priority until they see strong Android Wear sales / usage.

    • Andria Tay

      Unfortunately Android Wear does not work with anything besides Google Play out of the box (I’m using a Samsung Gear Live). I downloaded a trial app (Wear Play I think it was) to try to control my Sonos, which it sort of did, when it didn’t get confused and start playing local music on my phone instead – d’oh!

    • Woopty do! So tired of all the hype around a product that hasn’t even been released yet. This article has nothing to do with Apple. You fan-boys are going to ruin it for the rest of the iSheep.