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Apple, Google Debut Nifty Features for Their TV Devices

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Apple brings iTunes Extras to the Apple TV and Google sets up screencasting for select devices to the Chromecast.

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While we wait for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) long overdue refresh of its Apple TV equipment -- rumored to be coming sometime soon -- the company recently added a pretty nifty feature to its set-top TV box. But not missing a step is Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which also released a new feature to select Chromecast users and, for a $35 device, some would argue that it's... niftier.
 
First up, Apple released a new version of iTunes this week, bringing it up to 11.3, and with it came a feature called iTunes Extras. According to the official site, iTunes Extras "offer endless opportunities to create an interactive experience for movies in iTunes." Content creators can add cast interviews, exclusive clips, behind-the-scenes footage, short films, and photo galleries to their media. As a bonus, if you've already purchased HD movies through iTunes, the Extras content will be added to your purchases as soon as it becomes available at no extra cost. Extras content is now available for Macs and Apple TV, however iOS support will come later in the fall with the release of iOS 8.
 
With the decline of DVDs and physical media in general, it's been a while since supplemental features made the case for fans to seek out a film. Multiple-disc, special edition DVD sets have given way to the quick and dirty Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) stream, leaving things like deleted scenes and making-ofs to the occasional YouTube clip. For film aficionados, it's nice to see Apple reunite featurettes with their respective movies in one place.  

But Apple TV owners weren't the only ones to find new features on their media centers. Some Chromecast users are pleased to find they can now wirelessly cast their screens from their mobile device to the TV.
 
Announced during last month's Google I/O show, the screencast feature mirrors the full screen on smartphones and tablets and positions the image in either landscape or profile, depending on the orientation of the device. Popular apps that have no native Chromecast support (cough-Spotify-cough) can now be streamed to your TV set, and a quick tap of your device's power button turns off the screen, allowing for just the audio to be sent -- very handy for music apps. The screencasting connection is also fast, much faster than the laggy tab-casting function in Google Chrome, with a delay of a fraction of a second -- which means, remarkably, the $35 Chromecast is now a gaming device.
 
As you can see in the following video by Android Police's Bertle King, Jr., the speedy connection can put mobile games on the big screen with very little lag in the action, allowing users to play along without needing to squint at a smaller display.

 

Although this has long been a feature for Apple TV owners with iOS devices, this is nevertheless a "game changer," as King puts it. "[To] stream everything wirelessly to something as cheap and affordable as a Chromecast using more than just a single company's phones or tablets -- that's nothing to scoff at."
 
The downside, and there is a big one: The feature is currently limited to 12 devices on the market today. Only folks running recent Nexus devices, Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Galaxy phones and tablets, the HTC One M7, and certain LG phones can enjoy screencasting with Chromecast. Hopefully, as the function matures, it will roll out to more users.
 
Apple and Google are clearly stepping up their media center game, and with Android TV and a new Apple TV coming soon, the war is just heating up. Rejoice, cable-cutters! 

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