Google's $35 Chromecast TV-streaming device remains in high demand. A month after launch, retailers still can't keep the tiny gadget on its shelves, whether real or digital.
Last week, Google Play showed a September 3 ship date for the product, but it has since pushed that back to 2 to 3 weeks. Best Buy showed some inventory for a brief, shining moment on Monday, and unlike Google Play, the retailer even promoted the rare offer of free Netflix for three months. Sadly, it too has vanished. And there's still no joy on Amazon, with or without the Netflix offer. [Update 8/27: Appears that Best Buy has refreshed its stock.]
If you're a would-be Chromecast customer trying to get your hands on this elusive device, take heart: If you absolutely must have it right away, there are ways you can snag this streaming stick.
Where To Buy Right Now
See also: 5 Cool Chromecast Hacks and Workarounds
Things change on a moment-by-moment basis, but as of this writing, you'd be hard-pressed to find Google's streaming media player at any of the usual suspects—i.e., major electronics retailers or Google Play.
That's no surprise. Whenever a new device grabs a lot of attention, people tend to stockpile them. Sometimes they hoard products for family and friends, but often enough, it's a business move. High demand allows opportunistic types to sell inventory at an inflated cost.
Indeed, a quick search on eBay reveals several Chromecasts for sale. Some even offer the Netflix deal, which means they were originally purchased early in the launch phase. A Craigslist search shows similar results in sub-sites all over the country. These sales aren't necessarily a bad way to go, since the prices—which start at around $40 and go up to $50 or $60 and beyond—aren't prohibitively expensive.
But bear in mind that you're likely doing business with an individual or small operation, not a large reputable company with customer satisfaction or return policies. So standard eBay and Craigslist cautions apply, like checking reviews/ratings and never sending cash or paying with a debit card.
Why You May Want To Wait
See also: What You Can Watch On Chromecast And How
Google just sent out a software update that blocked AllCast (née AirCast), a popular Android app that allowed users to stream local media and other files to Chromecast.
According to a Google+ post by Android developer Koushik Dutta, who created the AllCast app, Chromecast's latest firmware update not only blocks the functionality, but does so on purpose.
Heads up. Google’s latest Chromecast update intentionally breaks AllCast. They disabled ‘video_playback’ support from the ChromeCast application.
Given that this is the second time they’ve purposefully removed/disabled the ability to play media from external sources, it confirms some of my suspicions that I have had about the Chromecast developer program: The policy seems to be a heavy handed approach, where only approved content will be played through the device. The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly.
Dutta seems to be accusing Google of going out of its way to block external streaming sources, though when I reached out to the company, a Google spokesperson flat-out denied that:
We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content. It's still early days for the Google Cast SDK, which we just released in developer preview for early development and testing only. We expect that the SDK will continue to change before we launch out of developer preview, and want to provide a great experience for users and developers before making the SDK and additional apps more broadly available.
So if streaming from an Android device is a make-or-break feature for you, just know that you may have to wait for it regardless of whether you buy the product now or not. (Streaming from a desktop, however, still seems to work fine via tab casting.)
Ultimately, my advice is to go with Google Play and wait the couple of weeks for delivery. Unless you're a savvy eBayer or Craigslist treasure hunter, sticking with an official channel will offer the most peace of mind and ensure that you'll definitely get your goods. Plus, you won't pay extra and you'll have a warranty with your purchase.
Your mileage may vary, but in my book, that's worth waiting an extra week or two.
Feature image by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite.
UPDATE August 27, 2013: Best Buy appears to have gotten more inventory. How long it will remain in stock, however, is anyone's guess, but it's worth noting that the sale page does feature the Netflix offer for now. Hopefully this retail channel will remain open.