Google has continued its streak of bringing native Android Applications to the market, following up Google Voice and Gmail with YouTube. The latest iteration of the YouTube application features new player controls, a horizontal and vertical video watching mode, and many more features that were unavailable in the previous version of the app. All of this comes with one catch that you’ll either find devastating, like me, or not a big deal.
Google spent a lot of time on an overhaul to the user interface. It makes me excited to see this much work spent on functionality that is still appealing to the eye, especially with Gingerbread right around the corner. The new YouTube mobile app interface is a combination of smooth animations and better screen usage. The old YouTube app, as many of you probably remember, took up a pretty good amount of screen space at the top with the search banner and status bar. The top imagery has shrunk to make room for a sleek, all-black interface that is easy on the eyes. The homescreen you’re greeted with is your actual subscriptions instead of a list of most viewed, most commented, and highest rated videos of the week. This is a huge improvement to me, as I happen to be an avid follower of those who I am subscribed to on YouTube. There’s still no refresh button, even upon hitting the menu key, but it’s a step in a direction that I’d like to see Google continue.
When you click on a video thumbnail to watch a video while still in portrait [vertical] mode, you are brought to the video watch page. On this page, the video will start to play on the top half while information about the video is still available on the bottom half. While the video is playing on the top half, above the video you have the option to rate, flag, favorite, or share the video. Below the playing video you can swipe between video information, [description, tags, etc] related videos and comments. This awesome split-screen interface is the newest change brought to the application and I’m really digging its functionality.
When visiting a YouTube channel page, as shown, you have the option to scroll through a user’s uploads, favorites, playlists, subscriptions, and recent activity [if that particular user chooses to make it available].
There are a lot of highs and lows when it comes to performance and features of the new YouTube app. First of all, performance is slightly improved from the last version. This means faster buffering of videos in both standard and high quality, as well as faster and smoother animations. It also seems to pull down refreshed channel info a bit faster than the previous iteration of the app, but that could be just me.
Features, on the other hand, have not changed since the previous version of the application, which to me is a major problem! The standalone version still does not have the ability to leave comments on any videos. I’d rather not rant on the lack of this feature, but of all the things I expected Google to include in this app I expected video sharing, rating, viewing, and commenting. Everything else is extra. Hopefully an update will include this ability in the near future.
Overall there’s no denying this is one of the biggest changes in UI of any of the core Android apps, possibly hinting at what Gingerbread may look like. The only thing we really know right now is that Google’s been working hard to listen to what consumers are saying about Android and make changes. The new standalone YouTube app is a great example of this change. I can only give it a 7 out of 10, however, due to the lack of any ability to leave comments!
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