Apple continues to stress the belief that apps are the future of television, and maybe they're right: the Apple TV's selection of apps and games is ever expanding, and you can tap into a wide array of streaming services and traditional network apps with ease. It makes cutting the cord seem even easier than ever, and cable and satellite subscribers see a lot of added benefits too.
But at $269 for the base 32GB model, the current generation Apple TV requires a solid upfront investment to dig into this app-centric TV vision that Apple is promoting - particularly since a lot of other devices large and small can access many of those same services. That may be worth the expense for some, but not everyone needs another way to run apps and games.
What about the Chromecast, then? Google's tiny dongle may seem like an ideal Android accessory, given its heritage, but it also works with iPhone and has many of the same services and apps available. It's a different kind of TV streaming experience, using your iPhone and its existing apps to 'cast' content wirelessly onto the big screen - but at $59, it may get the job done for many iPhone users who don't want to shell out for something more advanced.
Here's a look at what the Chromecast can do with the iPhone and how it compares to the Apple TV in terms of hardware, which features are shared between the devices, and how much functionality you lose with the bargain alternative.
The Apple TV has a pretty sleek profile, packing a lot of tech into a dense black box, but it has surprising heft to it. While easy to pop into a bag for travel, or move between screens at your home, it's primarily built to rest beneath a TV and blend in inconspicuously with your setup.
Google's Chromecast, on the other hand, is truly pocketable. The second-gen unit, released late last year, looks like a small toy or candy disc - and even comes in bright yellow and red options to complete the illusion. The HDMI dongle is directly attached, with a magnetic connector making it easy to fold the cable in half for even easier transportation. Link that to your TV and plug in the AC adapter cable and you're ready to stream.
Of course, the bigger difference comes in functionality. The Apple TV has its own interface controlled by the Siri Remote, letting you browse through apps and access media of all sorts on the TV itself. The Siri Remote also serves as the controller for games and apps, with the small touchpad, motion controls, and buttons allowing an array of interactions.
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