The Google Cast app doesn't get much attention these days. It's the type of software that remains installed on our phones, but rarely opened since it is rarely needed any time other than to set up Wi-Fi on a Chromecast. Otherwise, it stays out of the way and doesn't need a lot of updates. Still, a seemingly minor version bump occurred last week and it might be giving away a couple of pretty interesting details about future plans for our favorite streaming dongles.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (application packages) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

Chromecast Preview Program

If you don't mind risking stability for a chance to try some of the latest new features before they roll out to everybody, the Chromecast team might like to use you as a guinea pig. A stack of new strings in the app describes a new "Chromecast Preview Program" that gives early access to firmware updates as they are hatched.

strings

<string name="settings_preview_title">Chromecast Preview Program</string>
<string name="settings_preview_description_joining">Be one of the first to get the latest Chromecast updates and experience new features early.</string>
<string name="settings_preview_description_leaving">You now have early access to Chromecast updates.</string>
<string name="settings_preview_dialog_confirm">Ok, got it</string>
<string name="settings_preview_dialog_email">You can manage your email subscription from the app settings.</string>
<string name="settings_preview_email_address">Email address:</string>
<string name="settings_preview_email_sub">Google account sign-in required</string>
<string name="settings_preview_join">Join program</string>
<string name="settings_preview_joining_label">On (Waiting for next preview firmware update)</string>
<string name="settings_preview_label">Preview Program</string>
<string name="settings_preview_leave">Leave program</string>
<string name="settings_preview_leaving_label">Off (Waiting for next public firmware update)</string>
<string name="settings_preview_manage_email">Manage email subscription</string>
<string name="settings_preview_on_label">On (Firmware version: %1$s)</string>
<string name="settings_preview_sorry_left">You have successfully left the Chromecast Preview Program.</string>
<string name="settings_preview_sorry_title">Sorry to see you go</string>
<string name="settings_preview_thanks_email_join">"We'll email you when we release new preview updates to your Chromecast."</string>
<string name="settings_preview_thanks_enrolled">"You're now enrolled in the Chromecast Preview Program."</string>
<string name="settings_preview_thanks_title">Thanks for joining!</string>
<string name="app_settings_preview_email_description">Receive emails about the preview program</string>
<string name="app_settings_preview_email_label">Preview email</string>

The program is opt-in and closely resembles some of the beta and preview channels Google has used with other products. Signup is done through the app and will install the latest preview image if one is available. Leaving the program is a little less fluid because it doesn't allow users to roll back to older firmware – they have to wait for a new stable release to come out.

As a part of the program, it seems Google will also send emails related to the previews. Hopefully they will include fairly accurate changelogs from the developers so users will have a good idea of which things to poke and prod for testing purposes.

New Hardware Categories

Google Cast for Audio was announced early last year, but despite burgeoning adoption in a small selection of wireless speakers, it was still a bit of a surprise when an audio-only version of the Chromecast dongle came out about nine months later. Google's forays into seriously high quality audio have been well documented–we can't forget the Nexus Q–so deeper excursions into the market are probably inevitable. Based on a few new strings, it looks like the app will uniquely identify three additional types of hardware if they support Google Cast, including: amplifiers, preamps, and receivers.

Evidence: New Hardware

<string name="device_type_oem_amplifier">Google Cast amplifier</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_amplifier_plural">Google Cast amplifiers</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_amplifier_possessive">"Google Cast amplifier's"</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_pre_amplifier">Google Cast adapter</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_pre_amplifier_plural">Google Cast adapters</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_pre_amplifier_possessive">"Google Cast adapter's"</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_receiver">Google Cast receiver</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_receiver_plural">Google Cast receivers</string>
<string name="device_type_oem_receiver_possessive">"Google Cast receiver's"</string>

To begin with, receivers aren't even remotely new to the Google Cast arena; there are a few on the market, like the moderately rated Sony STRDN860. However, when it comes to products specifically marketed as amplifiers or preamplifiers, I'm not aware of any with built-in Google Cast support yet.

It seems strange to pair amps and preamps with Cast, but there are likely some niche areas where they would be able to pick up some traction. Amplifiers suited for home use aren't that uncommon, so it makes sense for OEMs to deliver wireless models. Higher end amps for use in businesses and large venues may also be decent targets for adding Cast support.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

Version: 1.15.7