I'm writing this as I listen to Frank Turner play a live show at Wembley Arena. That would be unremarkable if the show were available in Apple's Music app (it's not). Instead, I'm listening to the audio portion of a YouTube video with Ulysses full screen on my iPad. In a little while, I'll take a break for dinner and AirPlay the rest of the concert audio while I eat. That's not possible with the YouTube app unless you pay for a YouTube Red subscription, but it is with ProTube, a highly-customizable YouTube client by indie developer Jonas Gessner that lets you enjoy YouTube on your own terms.
The YouTube app isn't bad, it's just made with an average user in mind. There aren't many ways to customize it. You watch videos the way YouTube decided they should be watched. ProTube takes the opposite approach putting users in control, which makes it perfect for YouTube power users and anyone who has ever been frustrated by the one-size-fits-all approach of the YouTube app.
After causing many fans to lose hope, YouTube today released Version 11.10 with support for Slide Over and Split View.
By selecting YouTube from the slide over menu, YouTube will now play videos in a small window in Slide Over, while increasing in size when used in Split View.
All in all, it works about as expected – you can browse, visit channels, and watch videos from either option. Although it may have taken too long to get here, YouTube's latest update is finally updated to support iOS 9's features.
Like many others, I've developed a habit of binge-browsing YouTube videos and spending a few hours each week on YouTube channels that match my interests. Whether they're Let's Plays, music videos, educational stuff, documentaries, or interviews, the variety of content on YouTube provides a constant source of information and entertainment that I find superior to traditional television – or at least more engaging for me.
I haven't been watching much YouTube on my new Apple TV, though, because I don't like searching and browsing with the Siri Remote or Remote app; I'd rather use the YouTube app on my iPhone and beam videos to my Chromecast if I find something I want to watch on the big screen. Perhaps dictation will speed up the search process in tvOS 9.2.
TechTube, released earlier this week, is a new tvOS app that brings a curated stream of YouTube videos to the Apple TV with a minimal UI optimized for binge-watching. Once you open TechTube, you're presented with a swipeable gallery of videos; swipe left, and the thumbnail preview starts playing without having to open the video in full screen; if you're interested, swipe again, go to the next video, and so forth. Titles are displayed at the top of each preview and there are basic controls once you've opened a video in full screen, but that's about it. There's no complexity involved – you can't subscribe to channels, search, or add videos to playlists. TechTube is a lean-back experience created to open the app a couple of times each day, see what's new, and watch some videos from the selection of available picks.
And that's the aspect of TechTube I like: I don't have to find videos to watch. I can just open the app whenever I'm bored and relax for a bit with videos I wouldn't normally seek out. The team behind TechTube wants to pick videos for "techies, nerds, gadget lovers, and thinkers" on a daily basis, and, so far, the app offers an interesting mix of typical tech content (roundups, gadgets, what's new in software updates, hands-on, etc.) as well as educational videos and interviews. Scrolling through videos is fun; I don't have to think about browsing my YouTube subscriptions; and the app is a good showcase of tvOS and simple interactions with the Siri Remote.
I wouldn't mind having an iOS version of TechTube for those times when I want to sit down with my iPad and take my brain off work for a few minutes. TechTube is available for free on the tvOS App Store.
Last week, I wrote about PipTube, a simple utility to watch YouTube videos with Picture in Picture on iOS and send YouTube links to the iOS video player with a widget. Coincidentally, Tiny Whale – developers of Lean and Lively, among other apps – has been working on a similar idea, released today on the App Store: CornerTube.
When iOS 9 launched in September, it was easy to understand the potential of Picture in Picture: for the first time, iPad users could continue watching a video in the background through a floating media player capable of coexisting with other apps – it could even stay on screen during Split View.
As I cautioned in my review, however, it was also obvious to see how big media companies wouldn't like Picture in Picture: by stripping them of control over player customization, Picture in Picture would provide a universal way to watch videos across iOS with the system video player, which comes with specific restrictions and media limitations. This is the reason why the likes of YouTube and Netflix haven't implemented Picture in Picture yet: relying on Apple's Picture in Picture player would force them to relinquish control of custom player buttons, ads, or other content overlaid on top of videos that can't be shown in the Picture in Picture box.
Four months later, the lack of iPad Pro and Picture in Picture support in the official YouTube app is a daily annoyance that has only been partly remedied by third-party YouTube clients like YouPlayer or ProTube. Today, those wishing for a simpler way to watch YouTube videos in Picture in Picture without having to use a separate client will find a solid solution in PipTube, released on the App Store at $1.99.
Earlier today, YouTube introduced Red, a new subscription option to watch ad-free videos, save them offline, and listen to them in the background:
On October 28, we’re giving fans exactly what they want. Introducing YouTube Red – a new membership designed to provide you with the ultimate YouTube experience.
YouTube Red lets you enjoy videos across all of YouTube without ads, while also letting you save videos to watch offline on your phone or tablet and play videos in the background, all for $9.99 a month. Your membership extends across devices and anywhere you sign into YouTube, including our recently launched Gaming app and a brand new YouTube Music app we’re announcing today that will be available soon.
YouTube Red will launch in the U.S. first on October 28 (with limitations if you leave the U.S.), and at $9.99 it'll also include access to Google Play Music. Once it rolls out in more countries, there's no way around it – it is a strong offering, and YouTube is big and loved enough to convince a lot of people to pay for ad removal and offline consumption.
Yesterday, Google released an update for its YouTube app for iOS which brings a redesign aimed at making it easier to access recommended videos and all videos from your subscriptions. In the new Home page, three icons at the top of the screen let you move through recommendations and a feed of all videos from channels you're subscribed to. Throughout the app, a new Material-inspired UI gives you a new layout for related videos and your profile page, which now offers more visible shortcuts for the watch later queue, playlists, and more.
Unfortunately, Google hasn't adopted iPad multitasking features in this update, which lacks support for Picture in Picture, Split View, and Slide Over. While I don't know Google's motivation for continuing to avoid iOS 9's changes to multitasking on iPad, I speculated that Google may not be a fan of the ability to keep watching a video outside of the YouTube app, and this appears to be the case. By using Picture in Picture and standard iOS video APIs, users would be able to keep playing a video in a floating popup that would make it impossible to tap on ads and annotations on iOS.
I would have been content with Split View to keep YouTube (and its ad-powered videos) next to other apps on iOS, and maybe that day will eventually come. For now, I'll have to use apps like YouPlayer and ProTube to watch YouTube videos with Picture in Picture on my iPad.
With the release of iOS 9 last week, I was hoping YouTube would be ready with an app update to support Picture in Picture. As I suspected, though, YouTube hasn't brought iOS 9's improved video playback experience to their official app yet, and I wouldn't be surprised to know they're not thrilled to enable a floating video player that would make ads and annotations non-tappable.
YouTube Gaming is your go-to destination for anything and everything gaming because it automatically pulls in all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube.
Viewers get personalized gaming recommendations based on the games and channels they collect. With over 25,000 game pages and even more gaming channels, it’s never been easier to connect with your gaming community.
We’ve also made it easier to create a live stream — check out the beta version of our new way to go live at youtube.com/stream today.
I took the app for a spin this evening on my iPad, and it's well done. There's a lot going on in the front page – live streams, reviews, channels, game pages, but the YouTube team has done a good job at figuring out ways to automatically categorize content. When watching a game review, for instance, a link to that game's page is available in the video description; tap it, and on the game page you can find more videos of different types such as Let's Plays, reviews, popular videos, past live streams, and more. It's a busy interface, but there's also a lot to watch and go through.
YouTube Gaming is going to be compared to Twitch a lot, and for good reason. The big advantage of YouTube Gaming is its direct integration with a vast archive of YouTube videos and video creators that produce new content just for YouTube every day (this includes trailers, reviews, how-tos, and lots more non-live stream content). The decision to create game pages with automatic categorization of videos seems like a smart one to me, and the entire app feels lively and fun (try to search for games, for example).
I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes effectively the default way of finding gaming content on YouTube in the future, with the main YouTube app as a fallback for everything else. You can download the iOS app (US and UK only for now) here.