A new update for Google's Chromecast built-in app — installed on select televisions– now allows Android TVs in Google Home speaker groups. The update only appears in the beta channel so it won't be arriving yet for every user. And it isn't necessarily going to be available for all TVs with Chromecast capabilities. For now, this appears to primarily work with Android TV sets.
One notable exception to the change is reportedly the Shield TV. More specifically, even the beta channel change doesn't appear to allow speaker group additions for the NVIDIA-branded accessory. That means it may be hit-and-miss with regard to exactly which TVs see the update — hinting at a relatively narrow testing band.
What does this mean for speaker groups and Android TVs with Chromecast built-in?
Anybody utilizing a smart home environment built around Google Home and Nest devices will be familiar with speaker groups. The feature is among the best included with the ecosystem. Summarily, Google lets users assign speakers to a group or groups. That's by accessing their individual settings for a given device in the Google Home app.
Those speakers, when asked to, will then play music or other media together simultaneously. Google Home syncs the media, allowing it to effectively fill the whole home seamlessly in most cases.
Android-based TVs and those with Chromecast built-in cannot, as of this writing, be added to those groups. Except that now they can, as long as users have the beta. The change basically just adds another component to the experience.
For those with audio systems hooked up to their televisions, or with TVs that have exceptional sound out-of-the-box, the impact will just be more listening devices chiming in when speaker groups are used.
This was added once already and taken away
Now, the Android TV variant of the OS has received speaker groups support before. And, as with this case, that arrived via Chromecast built-in. At least for some users. As with this update, that allowed the TVs to be used primarily for background audio. But the feature was removed shortly after going live. And it's not immediately clear why Google made that decision.
Google may simply have decided the feature wasn't ready. Or it may have been pushed out by mistake, to begin with. Since the company didn't offer up any clarification, it's not out of the question it could happen again. And it may not arrive in the stable channel for some time still, depending on how testing goes. So this news may be best taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Those who do have Chromecast built-in televisions will need to update that app via beta in order to gain access to the feature, regardless. Beta sign-ups are pushed via the Google Play Store near the bottom of the apps page. Otherwise, users will need to wait until this update is pushed to the stable channel and their Android TVs automatically update.