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Google is coming up with all kinds of clever ways to enhance its $35 Chromecast, which plugs into any HDMI-equipped television and allows compatible apps to “cast” video, music, and now photos to the big screen. Billed as a “Chrome Experiment,” Photowall for Chromecast is Google’s latest iOS app, which allows mobile devices to throw pictures onto an HDTV and make them come alive as a unique interactive composite.
Oddly, Photowall isn’t really an app, but rather a shortcut designed to help you connect to a Chromecast and then confirm your identity by signing into Google+. (Ugh.) The rest of the action happens inside your choice of Safari or Chrome mobile browsers. It's a pretty unsatisfactory method, since it’s really no less work than going straight to the Photowall website. At the very least, Google could have integrated the browser, eliminating some of the confusion caused by jumping outside of the app.
That disappointment aside, Photowall is a fun way for a group of smartphone or tablet users on the same Wi-Fi network to work together on a collaborative photo gallery. After one user starts a Photowall, others join with a five-letter code displayed on the television; Chrome users on Mac or PC with the Chromecast extension (desktop Safari isn’t supported) can also start a Photowall, but won’t be able to join one already in progress.
After snapping a new photo or adding one from the device, you can crop it, add colorful doodles, or create captions. However, the resulting text can’t be resized, and can only be shifted vertically up or down—unlike in the Chrome desktop browser, where it can be manipulated anywhere on the photo. When finished, Photowall optionally creates a YouTube video as a digital memoir, which is a good thing since there’s no way to save the actual mosaic once it’s closed. But make sure to check this option from the beginning, as you can't do it once you’ve already started.
The bottom line. Photowall for Chromecast enables cheap party fun with friends, but Google really needs to integrate the service into the actual app.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 6.0 or later
Fun for creating collaborative image galleries on Chromecast. Supports iOS, Android, and Chrome browsers on Mac or PC. Photos can optionally be saved as YouTube memento.
It’s not really a standalone app, just a web shortcut. No integrated web browser. Chrome desktop users can’t join Photowalls started on mobile devices. No way to edit images after sharing, or save current Photowall.