Technology

Android 13 could finally give us a feature first promised in Android 11

Connect to your Cast devices right from the your phone’s media controls like it’s 2020


More than two years ago, Google announced that it would bring a new capability to Android. The then just released Android 11 introduced a revamped media player that sits in an extra area above your notifications. As part of this redesign, a quick output switcher was added to the top right corner of the player, and it was supposed to show you both Bluetooth and Cast devices for “seamless transfer.” However, the latter never appeared for anyone after Android 11 went stable. Two years and two Android versions later, evidence has surfaced showing that Cast devices might soon finally make it to the quick output switcher.

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As discovered by Esper’s Mishaal Rahman, the output switcher can finally show Cast devices on Android 13, listed right besides your favorite earbuds or your car. To make this possible, developers have to add bits of code to their apps (as part of the MediaRouter Jetpack library), which has been in place since 2020. However, we haven’t spotted a single app taking advantage of seamless transfer on Android 11 and 12, and Mishaal Rahman says that it looks like the functionality has been disabled remotely by Google in older releases.

Cast devices seem to be ready to be part of the media output selector in Android 13, though. Mishaal Rahman installed a special version of the Universal Android Music Player app on multiple devices equipped with the latest Android version with seamless transfer enabled (available on Github). When using it to play media, all Cast devices show up right alongside Bluetooth headphones and any other output devices. This allows you to seamlessly switch between speakers as you move throughout your rooms, all without unlocking your phone and heading to your audio app. On a Google Pixel 6 Pro, Mishaal Rahman was even able to activate Stream Expansion, a feature that allows you to play your media on multiple speakers at once.

1st: Current behavior. 2nd & 3rd: Cast connectivity enabled. 4th: Stream Expansion enabled

Upon further digging, Mishaal Rahman found out that part of this functionality will roll out without developers needing to lift a finger. An update note on the Google Cast SDK’s latest version explains that remote-to-remote media transfers are to “roll out to Android phones automatically without needing to update your app through a Google Play services update coming soon.” This means that it will be possible to switch between different Cast speakers right from the media output selector in your phone’s media controls. Developers will need to add support for switching from your Bluetooth headphones or speakers to Cast devices, though.

It’s unclear why it took Google so long to introduce seamless transfer for media controls after first explaining it to developers as part of Android 11. It looks like parts of the UI weren’t ready to handle the feature just yet. While it will still take some time for apps to get updated to give you the full functionality on your Android 13 phone, it’s good to see that everything is in place on Google’s end and that part of it will work without any updates to apps.

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