One of the biggest gripes with Google’s Chromecast is that there’s no way to control it apart from using a phone, tablet, or laptop. That can be a problem if you need to answer a phone call, your kid has run off with the family iPad, and House of Cards is still blaring in the background.
The latest firmware update for Chromecast partially solves this issue by extending basic play/pause controls to regular TV remotes. If your TV supports HDMI-CEC, there’s a good chance you can use your remote’s playback buttons to pause after you’ve started watching a video.
Most TVs from the past few years include HDMI-CEC, though you may have to dig through the television’s settings menu to enable it. This is the same feature that allows Chromecast to automatically turn the TV on—provided the dongle is powered through a wall outlet—and switch to the correct input when you start casting.
Remote control support was first spotted by Reddit, whose users point out that it works with several apps including WatchESPN, HBO Go, Plex, and YouTube. I’ve confirmed that the feature works properly on my 2014 Vizio E-Series television. Sadly, my Sharp television from 2009, which supports power and input switching through HDMI-CEC, didn’t pick up the play/pause controls.
This feature still has its limitations. It doesn’t support other playback commands such as fast forward and rewind, and it’s not currently supported across all Chromecast apps. As Janko Roettgers notes, Netflix isn’t taking advantage of play/pause commands for now, so the sounds of political intrigue will continue to interrupt your important business calls for the foreseeable future.
Why this matters: While Chromecast does its best to re-imagine the remote control for touch screens, the reality is that users still need to keep a traditional remote around for switching inputs, using full volume controls, and turning the TV off again. Since no one’s throwing out their old remotes anyway, it might as well serve as a fallback for basic play/pause commands.