Tuner

Every time I go out with friends and we start talking about music, there's always that one guy who wants to play a song and he does so…using YouTube. In spite of the relatively low barrier to entry for services like Spotify and Rdio (both available in Italy with free plans), the convenience of using YouTube as an audio source is indisputable (on top of that, add the fact that most people have a high tolerance for YouTube ads – or ads in general). Personally, I prefer a dedicated music streaming service or my iTunes Match library, but I do rely on YouTube for the occasional live performance or unreleased demo tape that I can't obtain legally anywhere else.

Tuner is a music player for YouTube videos: with a simple search feature, it uses YouTube as an audio source, turning videos into songs you can listen to on your iPhone.

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The official YouTube app for iOS received an update earlier today. You can now choose the quality of videos you want to stream (tap the new icon on the video player); unfortunately, after two months, the app still isn’t built for iOS 7.

Previously, YouTube announced that an update set to be released in November will add a new feature to download videos for offline watching.

YouTube 2.0

Today, Google has officially launched version 2.0 of its YouTube app on the App Store, bringing a tweaked user interface, new icon, and picture-in-picture to the mobile client.

The big new feature of this version is picture-in-picture for videos, which allows you to keep watching a video while browsing or searching. This has been a popular option of third-party clients such as FoxTube for quite a while, and, in Google’s implementation, the player can be dismissed with a tap on an arrow button or a swipe down directly on the video player. Both on the iPhone and iPad, dismissing the player reveals a delightful animation and transition that quickly sends the video down to the bottom of the screen, where you can tap again to enlarge it, or swipe it away to close it.

Overall, the improved animations of the app are much snappier and responsive than version 1.4, and there are dozens of new transitions, translucency effects, and subtle interface hints that contribute to making navigation faster and fluid.

YouTube 2.0

More importantly, YouTube 2.0 packs a tweaked design – starting from the icon – that suggests Google has been getting its iOS apps ready for the major 7.0 update coming to iOS this Fall. The app gets rid of several textures and graphical elements for a more subdued design with a focus on colors (red for selections, gray for the sidebar, whitespace for navigation and search results), transparency, gestures, and animations. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Google going one step further with this new design and enhancing with iOS 7-only APIs such as blurs and physics effects once iOS 7 is available. The new app doesn’t mimic the look of Apple’s iOS 7 apps, but it does look like Google’s way of easing users into iOS 7’s (fast-approaching) future.

Based on my initial tests, YouTube 2.0 seems to be a powerful and welcome improvement over the old version. The picture-in-picture player is a great addition, and the app has a cleaner, more responsive interface.

YouTube 2.0 is available on the App Store.

May
3
2013

Why I Use FoxTube

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FoxTube

After Cody linked to FoxTube for Mac two days ago, I figured I haven’t mentioned why, after nearly a year and a major update, I’m still using FoxTube for iOS alongside the official YouTube app.

FoxTube isn’t the best looking app ever made for iOS; while the 2.0 version improved the overall design, there’s still a lot going on in terms of interface and everything feels a bit cramped, especially on the iPhone. The icon is a literal representation of the app’s name; sometimes, icons in toolbars overlap with navigation buttons. I wish the FoxTube developer could find a way to slim down the interface and make some parts more cohesive, but I understand how that can be difficult when FoxTube does so many things.

FoxTube is a supercharged YouTube client for iOS. I know what you’re thinking: you don’t need another YouTube app after the release of the (free) official client. And that is probably true – as MacStories readers know, I’m a big fan of the new YouTube app (App Store users seem to agree, too). FoxTube, however, is a great complement to the YouTube app that I recommend if you’re looking for more flexibility and customization in certain aspects of the YouTube experience. (more…)

Almost a year ago we highlighted FoxTube, an alternative YouTube replacement for iOS that filled in a lot of missing gaps. And even though Google’s own YouTube app (iTunes link) has replaced Apple’s and delighted many users, FoxTube is the non-Jailbroken power user’s player of choice, offering extra playback controls, media information on the lock screen, and the ability to play media in the background.

While I’m personally happy browsing YouTube on the web and using Tube Controller to integrate my Mac’s media keys, FoxTube has come to the Mac, giving anyone the power to download videos offline for later viewing, take advantage of advanced media controls, and play media through a convenient mini player. In contrast to many recent app launches for OS X, it’s even available for the latest version of Lion. FoxTube for Mac is $9.99, but you can download a free trial from the developer’s website. Due to restrictions on the App Store, I’d recommend purchasing the app from the developer to get the full set of features.

iOS YouTube Downloader with Pythonista

Useful script created by “pudquick” on the Pythonista forums:

Browse to http://m.youtube.com in Mobile Safari, view a video that you like (press Stop if it starts playing, you need to be looking at the page – not the video actually playing), then click on “Bookmarks” and select the bookmarklet that you created.

This will launch my script, which will pull the URL of the page you were looking at as an argument, parse it, figure out the direct download URL for the .mp4 video file, then open iDownloads directly to that URL to start downloading it.

As pudquick says, third-party YouTube clients with a “download” functionality are usually removed from the App Store as Google doesn't allow downloading video files from the service. However, by using Pythonista to crawl the webpage and find the direct .mp4 link of a video, pudquick managed to put together a handy solution to go from your web browser to Pythonista and then directly to iDownloads to start downloading the .mp4 file.

However, I don't use iDownloads – I prefer Readdle's Documents and good.iWare's GoodReader. Replacing iDownloads with your favorite file manager is very easy: in the penultimate line of the script, replace the iDownloads://URL with the one of the app you want to use (the URL of the .mp4 will be appended to it). Unfortunately, Documents doesn't seem to be able to download .mp4 files in this way, but I had no problems with GoodReader. Simply use ghttp://to forward the .mp4 file to GoodReader and start downloading it automatically.

Make sure to check out pudquick's explanation of the script and bookmarklet here. For our previous coverage of Pythonista, check out our tag page and my original review.

Out of habit I tend to reach for my media keys when playing music and videos. While Rdio has certainly spoiled me with its compatibility I’ve yet to learn that the rest of the world, the web mainly, doesn’t work with the three most useful keys on my keyboard. While trying to pause YouTube videos with the play / pause key can lead to some egregious overdubs, it’s always a little frustrating when it doesn’t just work.

Enter Tube Controller, a free app from the Mac App Store for anyone running Snow Leopard and beyond. Interfacing with Chrome and Safari, Tube Controller sits in the menubar and enables your Mac’s media keys to fast forward, rewind, and pause videos on YouTube. It’s simple and convenient. You can’t hide the menubar icon, but you can tuck it away with Bartender if you’d like.

Tube Controller does a few clever things. Rewinding and fast forwarding YouTube videos is interesting because it always feels like it works perfectly. That is to say in just the right increments. It isn’t an exact amount, but Tube Controller seems rewind and fast forward in roughly 3.5-percent increments based on some quick math and plentiful watching of various length videos. Some more complicated algorithm looks at the duration of the video and slightly adjusts where needed.

The app is also aware of iTunes and what it’s doing. If it’s in the background, Tube Controller will keep eyes on YouTube, letting you play and pause the video even when you’re browsing other tabs or jumping into different apps. Once iTunes comes into the foreground or you close whatever tab your YouTube video is playing in, Tube Controller directs the media keys to control iTunes instead. Apps that implement their own media key solutions like Rdio will override the controls.

Without the Flash Player installed, I’ve found Tube Controller doesn’t work with the YouTube 5 extension I have enabled on Safari. Others, in the app’s review section and on Twitter, have noted that Tube Controller also doesn’t work in a full screen view. I’ve personally had success with Chrome and both its full screen and presentation modes, as well as YouTube’s full screen video player in that browser.

I don’t know why you would watch two YouTube videos at once, but if you do, Tube Controller handles it pretty well. The last video you viewed takes precedence over the other. It doesn’t work on web pages with embedded YouTube videos, however.

Tube Controller offers to launch when you log on and there’s a few other settings such as keeping your Mac awake while YouTube is playing (although I don’t think my Mac has ever gone to sleep while YouTube is playing) and changing the color of the menubar icon from black to red. You can enable and disable its functionality manually if you’d like.

I’m keeping Tube Controller running in the background (it uses up a measly amount of memory) for the convenience of using my media keys with YouTube. It’s certainly recommended if your play / pause reflexes are anything like mine. Download it from the Mac App Store.

Side note: The developer doesn’t have a personal site or a landing page up, but you can check out some of his other work on Bipolar (a game also available on the MAS).

Nasturtium Player

I first mentioned the public beta of Nasturtium Player back in November 2012. Nasturtium is an interesting take on an “iTunes mini player” mixed with a queuing system and a way to play videos from YouTube within a single interface. I wrote:

The concept of combining local music with YouTube videos resonates with my music workflow. While I tend to listen to music on Rdio, there are some older albums and songs that I need to keep locally either in iTunes or, most recently, Plex with PlexSync; similarly, there are YouTube videos of older demoes or live concerts of my favorite bands that I want to access every once in a while. I like how Nasturtium unifies search of local media and YouTube videos in a single interface.

Nasturtium has been out on the App Store for a few weeks now, and I like the improvements that went into the final version. There are keyboard shortcuts to control playback and playlists, and YouTube videos (while not resizable) now have preview thumbnails. Adding items to the queue is still as easy as hitting Enter, but you can also drag a song (from either iTunes or YouTube search results) into the main playlist interface, or use a “+” button. I particularly appreciate the possibility to collapse headers in search results to filter down results to Tracks or Albums (sorting options are also available).

As usual when trying new apps, it’s the care about small details that stands out to me. I like the thinking process that went into Nasturtium. The amount of minutes “remaining” in a playlist is available in the status bar at the bottom, but you can click it to show total minutes; similarly, while you can click the Play/Pause buttons to trigger playback, you can double-click the Play one to skip a track. As detailed in the app’s Help page, you can search by rating and genre as well simply by typing the information you need. I recommend reading more about the design process of the app here.

Nasturtium Player is $5 on the App Store.

Following a major update to Gmail for iOS, Google has today also released a new version of its YouTube app, which includes AirPlay and iPhone 5 support, as well as an iPad version that makes the app Universal.

One of the new features is the Guide of channels that you can access by tapping on the YouTube logo in the title bar; tap it, and you’ll go back to the app’s main sidebar, listing your account’s options and Channels. On the iPhone 5, YouTube is now optimized for the taller screen — a glaring omission that has annoyed several iPhone 5 users since the device’s release. Among other improvements — including clickable links in video descriptions and ability to add or remove a video from your playlists — a notable addition is AirPlay support: you can now natively stream videos to any AirPlay-compatible device such as the Apple TV or a Mac running Reflection (which is what I tested).

The iPad version of the app is rather obvious, but still welcome: it packs a sidebar on the left side, and main content on the right side of the screen. When you tap on a video, the right portion becomes the main view hiding the sidebar and displaying suggested videos on the right. Interestingly, you can’t browse and watch videos at the same time, as the sidebar will always be hidden after you click a video’s thumbnail.

For everything else, both the updated iPhone app and iPad version share the same features that I covered in my original review of the app, and today’s changes are definitely improvements worth checking out — it’s especially good to see Google supporting AirPlay right after the 1.0 release. Both on the iPhone and iPad, Google offers a feature in the Settings to open links in Chrome, also available for both platforms on the App Store.

The updated YouTube app is available on the App Store. More screenshots of the iPad app are available below. (more…)