By now there’s little doubt that Apple cares more about getting its services on every hardware platform possible than it does about simply promoting its own hardware ecosystem. Apple Music was the first service to break any real new ground in this area, coming to Android four years ago, and actually embracing the competing smartphone platform in a serious way.
While some suggested that this was a necessary aberration in Apple’s typically closed ecosystem, it’s become apparent that as Apple shifts into a more services-focused business, it’s continuing to untether its streaming services from its own hardware. Apple Music came to Amazon’s Alexa speakers late last year, eliminating the exclusivity that Apple’s own HomePod had on the music service, and Apple is partnering with almost every major smart TV and set-top box makers it can to get its TV app on as many screens as possible.
Now it looks like even Chromecast could get the Apple Music treatment soon, if code found in Apple’s latest Android app is any indication.
The folks at 9to5Google took apart the application packages (APK) for Apple Music 2.8 and later for Android devices, the latest versions released since last Monday alongside iOS 12.2 for iPhone and iPad users. The Android version of Apple Music added the same updates as the corresponding iOS 12.2 Music app — a revamped Browse tab and some other UI rewordings — as well as adding support for Chromebooks.
While version 2.8 was the main release, Apple subsequently released two minor bug fix versions, 2.8.1 and 2.8.2, and the most recent version included four new strings that show that Apple is likely working on adding Chromecast support as well. The strings show “Cast application IDs” that are used to register a Chromecast application with Google, which allows for custom colors and branding of a Chromecast app. This suggests that Apple is planning to theme the app for TV screens and smart displays, although 9to5Google notes that oddity that Apple has registered two different application IDs for this purpose.
Additional Chromecast-related strings were also found in prior updates, showing the text that users will see on their devices, along with some internal testing and debugging values.
A report earlier this year suggested that Apple Music could be coming directly to Google Home via integration with Google Assistant. That feature would have allowed users to directly link Apple Music to their Google Account and play content directly from the service, similar to how Apple Music can be used on Amazon Alexa devices. Google flatly denied that this was coming, indicated that the code found in the Google Assistant app was just shared code that’s used to interface with Apple Music in other apps such as Google Maps.
However, the inclusion of Chromecast support in the Apple Music app on Android would allow music to be streamed to a Google Home speaker, but only from the Apple Music app on an Android device. Users would also be able to of course stream directly to an actual Chromecast, along with smart displays and Android TVs, while using the Android app to browse and control playback. Unlike adding Apple Music directly to Google Assistant, Apple can include Chromecast support in its own Android app without requiring any special involvement from Google.
At this point, however, Apple still appears to merely be laying the groundwork to support the feature in a future update. Visual elements, like a Cast button, have yet to be added to the app.