While COVID-19 may have forced Google to cancel in-person attendance of Google I/O 2020, that doesn’t mean the company isn’t working on new gadgets to show off like the rumored Pixel 4a and potentially now this: a Chromecast Ultra powered by Android TV.
The latest info on Google’s next streaming dongle comes via 9to5Google who spoke to a reliable source about an upcoming device codenamed “Sabrina.” In terms of design, Sabrina is said to feature a hockey puck-shaped body with rounded edges similar to the current Chromecast Ultra, while featuring support for 4K HDR streaming video, Bluetooth, wifi, and built-in Chromecast functionality.
However, instead of the standard Chromecast UI, Sabrina is said to be powered by Android TV. That means users should get full compatibility for the more than 5,000 Android TV apps available today including those from major streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, CBS All Access, and more.
If true, not only would Sabrina be the first homegrown Android TV device (aside from a few prototypes and dev kits), this would also be a major shift for Google’s Android TV strategy, which up until now has largely relied on partners and third-parties to create hardware-based on Android TV like the Nvidia Shield TV and Xiaomi Mi Box S 4K.
More recently, cable providers have started leveraging Android TV in devices like the AT&T TV box, which combines a streaming video box with a traditional cable box. By relying on Android TV, it frees cable providers from having to spend as much time creating and managing a UI and OS (which frankly, cable companies are usually quite bad at), while also giving users a more familiar app-based video device.
Another important change for Google’s upcoming streaming device is that the source says it will come with its own remote that features a built-in microphone for summoning the Google Assistant, and that it will be possible to program the remote to work directly with people’s existing TVs.
While the source did not provide any info on expected pricing and availability, the source did say that Google’s upcoming Android TV device is designed to fill a gap in the market while serving as “a mass-consumer dongle that runs full-fledged Android TV.”
That means we’re probably looking at a device that’s priced between current Chromecast devices which top out at $70 for the Chromecast Ultra and premium Android TV boxes like the Nvidia Shield TV which starts at $150 for the standard model.