Curious case of a possible ‘Chromecast Audio’ successor

Google appears to be working on a new device that will at least have the functionality of the classic “Chromecast Audio” that has helped make regular speakers “smarter”.

Chromecast Audio has made speakers smarter

Back in 2015, Google introduced Chromecast Audio to make your home audio system smarter by allowing you to play Cast-enabled apps. The dongle replaced the Chromecast’s usual HDMI output with an audio output that could be connected to a speaker or home theater.

The following year, Chromecast Audio was obsolete with the debut of the Google Home speaker, which offered an easy-to-setup, Cast-equipped audio experience. Since then, the Google Home – now Nest – speaker offering has only grown, while Chromecast Audio was discontinued in 2019.

Though Chromecast Audio has been discontinued, it has retained something of an iconic status among audio enthusiasts looking to add the “intelligence” of a Chromecast or Nest speaker to their high-end gear. In fact, a resale market has opened up for the original Chromecast Audio, with models often selling for well over the original $35 retail price on eBay.

One reason is that unlike other Chromecast devices, Chromecast Audio was able to deliver high-resolution audio (up to 24-bit and 96kHz). With services like Tidal and Apple Music helping to make high-resolution audio more popular, a device like Chromecast Audio never made more sense.

A new “Chromecast Audio” will appear

In the last few versions of the Google Home app, our APK Insight team has noticed that Google is preparing a new device, simply dubbed “YND”. The code indicates that YND will run on the same software as a traditional Chromecast – that is, Not GoogleTV.

With a bit of research, we found that Google Home includes code explicitly calling YND “Chromecast Audio” alongside the original dongle codenamed “Hendrix”. All in all, it seems possible that Google is preparing a successor for Chromecast Audio.

In particular, it’s likely that this device (if it’s released) won’t launch under the ‘Chromecast Audio’ name. For comparison, both the current Chromecast with Google TV and the upcoming rumored device, dubbed the “Chromecast HD,” are called “Chromecast Video” in similar code.

Chromecast Audio next to a Google Home Mini speaker

An updated Chromecast Audio would come at an interesting time for Google, given the company’s recent legal battles with Sonos, which have resulted in some features being removed from Chromecast-equipped devices and speaker arrays. Introducing the original Chromecast Audio, we praised it in our review for offering the key benefits of Sonos speakers at a fraction of the price.

As it stands now, Chromecast Audio is an easy, cheap recommendation for you […] want to upgrade a standard speaker with line-in, RCA or optical input. The result is very similar to what Sonos offers through its all-in-one speakers priced at $199 and up, except you don’t have to replace the speakers you already own.

It remains to be seen how much demand there will be to convert a classic audio system into a set of intelligent speakers. It’s possible that Google might intend to launch a Chromecast Audio successor alongside the upcoming Google TV-powered “Chromecast HD,” which is rumored to be out later this year.

Some pixel perspective

Another theory our team has landed on is that this YND device could be related to the upcoming Pixel tablet – itself already listed in the Google Home app code. Our previous coverage of this tablet suggested it would feature a smart display that could be separated from a smart speaker base.

With this proposed design, one could imagine that the dock could continue to function even when the tablet is detached. In order for this to be possible, the Pixel tablet’s speaker/dock would need to have its own Chromecast-enabled hardware. Following that idea, it’s plausible that the arrival of this rumored “Chromecast Audio” is simply meant to let the dock be “smart” without your tablet connected.

In any case, it’s clear that Google intends to expand its range of smart home audio devices. Only time will tell if this is for the Pixel tablet, an update to the Chromecast Audio, or something we haven’t envisioned yet.

Would you buy a redesigned Chromecast Audio dongle if Google made one? Or are you more excited about the possibilities of a Pixel tablet? Let us know in the comments.

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