The Video streamer decides to go solo
While Apple continues to absorb more functionality and apps into its iOS, YouTube have decided to go the other way. No longer a native app when you turn on your iPhone or iPad for the first time, it is now a standalone download, for free, from the App Store.
This change of location is accompanied by a quite substantial change of interface and functionality, and across the board this looks and feels for the best. The interface is now much more loyal to the website where we all first used YouTube, with the video itself as well as the comments and suggested videos now all appearing on one screen, as opposed to under individual tabs like in the Apple-native version. That entire interface has been done away with, and so ends the very stop-start experience that came with it; where you had to leave a video in order to view any other information about the upload. Now while the video is playing you can scroll down to browse the comments and related videos, as well as add a comment yourself, all without having to pause or stop watching.
This brings us back to the idea of the experience of using the app. It’s not until you use this app and compare it with the original that you begin to see just how important user experience really is, and why so many people talk about it.
This YouTube app has taken all the little gripes we had with its Apple-native predecessor and completely eliminated them. Tapping the play button on a video no longer automatically forces you into landscape orientation, fullscreen. You decide how you want to watch the video, and do any additional browsing that was mentioned earlier.
Away from the video pages themselves there are plenty of other tweaks that have been made to the functionality of the app. The main navigation of the app is now done via a list menu that you can access with a swipe across your screen, where you’ll find a selection of categories to view videos by, as well as signing in options should you have a YouTube account. If you subscribe to any channels they will also be listed in this menu bar. And you can also add new ones here as well as on individual video pages. This version of the app also supports voice searching for hands free browsing, and having your subscriptions all available to you in a swipe shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to convenience.
The front page of each video category has also been given a makeover, with a news feed-like interface now displaying all the main uploads of each section in a way that wouldn’t look out of place somewhere like Flipboard. With large screen grabs from each video so you’ve got a better idea what the video is about before you tap to watch it. YouTube is naturally a place where you might spot something you may want to share with friends, and the app is prepared for such moments with a share icon on all videos that first asks you if you’d like to save or bookmark the video or indeed share it with others. Tap Share and you have six potential destinations, including the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It is also worth noting that in the same bar as the share icon you can tap to Like or Dislike the video in question, in much the same way you would on the YouTube website.
The closeness to the original site is perhaps the biggest positive of this refurbishment; the familiarity that now comes from using the app is very useful, eliminating the need to spend half an hour finding your way through the interface. Everything feels intuitive and within reach because it mirrors the way you move through the YouTube website.
The slightly clumsy nature of the Apple version and its functionality feel a long way away when you’re browsing the Most Popular feed of the app.
This refreshed version of YouTube then gives you everything you need from your main video-watching app, from good streaming quality to customisation options and more than enough content to keep you occupied. It looks like second time around, YouTube has got it spot on for their mobile client.
A big improvement on the clunky native app; all that’s missing is an iPad version.
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