Amazon is introducing a new feature today called Alexa Cast, which lets users control what’s playing on their Alexa-enabled devices from their phone. At launch, its abilities are very limited: it only works with the Amazon Music app to control music playback. But it’s easy to imagine this becoming a full-on competitor to the very-similarly named Google Cast, eventually allowing you to control playback of music, movies, podcasts, and more from any app that wants to specifically support Amazon’s network of devices.
Alexa Cast works with any Alexa-enabled device, so it supports Echo speakers, third-party Alexa products, and some of Amazon’s Fire devices. After an update today, the Amazon Music app on iOS and Android will include an icon for Alexa Cast on the Now Playing screen. You’ll be able to tap that to get a list of all of your Alexa-enabled devices and select which one to start playing music on. The app will stay in sync with what’s playing on the speakers, so you can continue to control music remotely or switch to playback on your phone if you leave home.
The feature isn’t anything revolutionary on its own, but it’s convenient and makes a lot of sense for Amazon’s increasingly large Alexa ecosystem. Right now, you generally have to control music playback on an Alexa device by voice, or through a traditional Bluetooth setup, which requires pairing. Alexa Cast should make it much simpler for people to quickly choose a speaker and start streaming music.
Amazon hasn’t announced any details yet about where Alexa Cast will go next. So there’s no word on whether third-party apps, like Spotify, will be able to add this feature. “We’ll continue to improve this feature and expand support over time,” a spokesperson told The Verge in an email.
But even without third-party support, the outlines of Alexa Cast look remarkably similar to Google Cast, Google’s feature for controlling audio and video playback on a smart TV or speaker from your phone. Amazon and Google remain in a feud over retail sales and YouTube (not to mention, they’re direct competitors in the smart speaker market), and this feels like another small escalation of that, with Amazon going out of its way to build its own streaming feature, instead of relying on the ones built in to iOS and Android.