The Chromecast HDMI dongle launched in the US in July 2013, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive (see our US Chromecast review). Google promised at the time that it would launch in ‘other countries’ soon, but there’s still no hard news on how much it will cost in the UK or when it will actually launch. So when will the Chromecast be released in the UK? We investigate. Updated 10/03/14.
The good news is that Google has released its SDK (software development kit) to the world. Until now, Google has kept the Chromecast as a largely closed system, allowing only a few developers to distribute apps (other publishers could only build apps using the preview SDK). Now, anyone and everyone is free to build Chromecast support into their apps.
The official Chromecast app was launched on the UK Google Play Store in December, so we'd be surprised if the hardware doesn't go on sale in the UK very, very soon. Another potential signal that the UK launch could come within weeks is that imported Chromecasts have completely disappeared from Amazon's UK website, even from marketplace sellers. Previously these were being sold by Amazon itself for £35, but ranged up to £60 from other sellers.
When PC Advisor spoke to Google about a 2014 launch date for Chromecast in the UK, we received the standard "We have nothing to share at the moment" response.
In his SXSW keynote, Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Apps and Chrome, said that the Chromecast is coming to "many more countries" in the next few weeks, according to The Next Web. This means the device could arrive in the UK by the end of March.
Perhaps Google has decided to hurry things up now that Roku has announced its rival Streaming Stick.
Should I buy an imported Chromecast?
Today, you can buy a Chromecast from ebay, but you'll pay around £60 - or more - due to shipping charges and import taxes from the US. And these American models are set up to work with US streaming services which may not work in the UK. We've confirmed that YouTube, Netflix, Play Movies & TV and Play Music work in the UK, but you won't find UK catchup TV services.
There's also a risk that a US Chromecast may not have the same firmware as UK models, or that it might not be possible to load a UK firmware on a US model, meaning you'd be stuck with the selection of streaming providers available to US users, and not get access to iPlayer or other UK services.
A minor point is that the US Chromecast doesn't work (according to some reviews) on Wi-Fi channels 12 or 13. If your router uses these channels, you would have to manually change the channel to make it work with a Chromecast. See also: How to switch Wi-Fi channels.
Now, TV shows including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Walking Dead and other popular series can be streamed for £1.89 per episode, or £2.49 in HD.
The Chromecast can stream video directly from Google Play, YouTube and Netflix, but it can't currently stream personal content from a smartphone or tablet - a common misconception. Such capabilities might be added down the line, but the Chromecast is not the equivalent of Apple's AirPlay. Instead, your smartphone or tablet is the remote control which you use to choose what to watch.
It’s probable that the UK launch of the Chromecast is being delayed because of licencing deals in the UK, and convincing catch-up TV providers including BBC, Channel 4 and others to make their content available via the Chromecast.
If the Chromecast does sell for £30 in the UK, it’s clear that Google isn’t looking to make a (big) profit on the hardware. Instead, it will want to build as big a user base as possible in order to try to sell content from the Play store.
As and when we have more information on the Chromecast launch date in the UK, we’ll update this article again.