The first-generation Chromecast is now 6 years old. During that time, Google has dutifully kept it up-to-date with both security patches and new features. Now, however, it appears that the small HDMI dongle is headed for retirement, albeit slowly. Originally spotted by 9to5Google, the current list of Chromecast devices shows a discrepancy between firmware versions, with the first-gen device conspicuously lagging behind more recent versions. This discovery has led some to believe that no new major updates will be made available for the product going forward.
Not that this means you need to stop using your first-gen Chromecast if it still meets your needs. When asked by 9to5Google to comment on the state of first-gen Chromecast updates, Google responded by saying, “Chromecast recently celebrated its sixth birthday. We’re thrilled that some of our earliest adopters are still enjoying the first-generation device, and we continue to update it with bug and security fixes.” That response would appear to confirm two things: New features are unlikely, and that for the time being, the device will continue to be perfectly safe and secure (or as secure as possible) to use.
Though Google abandoned the audio-only Chromecast in early 2019, the current video versions of the streaming devices continue to be very popular, with around 25 million of the devices in use in the U.S. according to Strategy Analytics. Until the end of 2017, growth among all the major streaming platforms, such as Apple TV, Sony PlayStation, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast/Android TV followed a fairly similar trajectory, with modest but visible increases each year. In 2018, however, the Roku platform began to accelerate its adoption and has been on a tear ever since. It now dominates the U.S. streaming market with well over 50 million devices in use, a number that is much higher than the PlayStation at just over 30 million, which is in the No. 2 spot.
One reason for Roku’s sudden spike in sales is that two of its leading competitors, the Chromecast and the Amazon Fire TV, were locked in a corporate standoff that kept Amazon Prime Videos from playing on Chromecast, and YouTube from playing on Fire TV. Though this feud has now been resolved, Roku used the fight to gain a much larger toe-hold among consumers and that commanding lead may be tough to overcome.
Still, Chromecast has some impressive features, some of which remain unique like the ability to stream Chrome browser tabs from desktops and laptops to the big screen. The Chromecast Ultra is the least-expensive streaming device that supports both 4K and HDR, which keeps it a compelling choice for those who want a no-frills way to access UltraHD content.