When Apple decided to remove the YouTube app in iOS 6, I can’t say I was very heartbroken. The app was rarely updated, didn’t function very well and was a tad lacking in features. Nevertheless, if you upgraded to iOS 6 when it was first released near the end of September, you’ve either had to use Safari (or another browser app) or one of the many unofficial YouTube apps (Jasmine being the best option) to get your video content; that is, until now.
In a recent update to the iPhone version, the official third-party YouTube app finally gained iPad support. After spending some time with the app, I’m ready let you know if it’s been worth the wait.
YouTube is ready to use right when you open it for the first time. However, it’s definitely worth logging your YouTube account (done by tapping the Sign In button in the side menu and entering your credentials), as many of the notable features discussed in this review are inaccessible without logging in (just to give you a heads up).
Once signed in, you can access various account specific features in the side menu by tapping the button with your profile picture and user name. The expanded menu provides options to view all the videos you’ve uploaded with your account (unfortunately, you can’t upload videos from within the app), view your created playlists, review your purchased videos, view and clear your history, access your Watch Later list, and view your favorited videos. The Accounts section is also where you can access and change the app’s setting, and add a Channel.
Finding Videos to Watch
There are numerous methods to finding videos to watch on YouTube. The most common is to use the search bar located in the top right corner. To search, simply tap the bar and begin typing the video’s title. Like most Google apps, the search function includes predictive text, so as you’re typing, suggestions that match what you’re typing should begin to populate. You can also search via voice by tapping the microphone icon (a staple in most Google iOS apps) and speaking the video’s title.
If you’re signed in with an account and subscribe to channels, a Channels section will be displayed in the side menu, which includes each of your individual channels and a number count for the number of videos that have not been seen since you last viewed the channel. Below the Channels section is another that’s titled From YouTube, and it includes a slew of category options (e.g. popular, music, sports) that you can browse for content.
Interacting With Videos
Once you’ve selected a video to play, there are number of different things to be done. By default, videos don’t play in full screen mode, so you’ll have to engage that yourself if you wish to do so. To go to full screen mode, either tap the full screen icon (it looks like four arrows pointing in four corners) or use the pinch-out gesture on the video. To exit full screen mode, either tap the full screen icon again or pinch-in on the video.
Below the video is a sub-navigation bar with two options: About and Comments. About provides information about the video, including the upload date; number of views, likes and dislikes; and the video’s description, displayed below. If you’re signed in, you can either like or dislike by tapping the prospective icon; tap the sharing icon to share the video; add it to your Watch Later queue; add it to your favorites; add it to a playlist or flag the video. If you wish to subscribe to the channel, you can do so by tapping the Subscribe button.
The Comments section allows you to view comments posted by other YouTubers and post a comment yourself by tapping the speech bubble at the top of the feed. What’s interesting about the comments feature is that it lacks a lot of the features provided on the website, including an option to like/dislike a comment, reply to a comment and even flag a comment. The comments section for YouTube is legendary for being a breeding ground for the most unsavory types to unleash their most heinous thoughts, so it seems odd that users are not allowed to let the folks at YouTube know when a truly awful comment gets posted while they’re using the app.
Navigating Between Videos
If you use YouTube like I do, you find yourself watching a video and then selecting another in the Suggestion videos panel (located on the right side in the app). After you get more than a few videos in you may find yourself wanting to access the side menu, and tapping the back button in the top left corner isn’t the best method to do so since it just returns to the previous video you watched. To quickly jump to the side menu, swipe right on the top bar (the one that includes the back arrow and search box).
The Bottom Line
Compared to the previous first-party app, the new YouTube app is better by leaps and bounds. Searching for and viewing videos is really easy and hassle-free, and accessing and adding Channels is a cinch. On top of all that, the app is visually stunning, falling in line with Google’s now common minimal interface design. Personally, I’d love to see the ability to upload videos get added (Google recently released YouTube Capture, which is a standalone app designed for uploading videos, but it’s optimized for the iPhone).
The app also suffers from a few other issues that definitely need to be to be addressed in future updates. For starters, there’s no option to select the quality of the video playback (e.g. 480p, 720p), which is a feature that even some unofficial YouTube apps have. Another is a lack of background support, meaning if you exit the app during playback the video will pause immediately. While these are in no way deal breakers, their addition would go a long way to make a good app great.