When iOS 6 Beta 4 was released to developers last month, it was discovered that the YouTube app, a staple of iOS since the first iPhone launched in 2007, had been removed. Apple confirmed the news, stating that YouTube would not be included with iOS 6 as their licensing agreement with Google had expired. At the time, Google assured users that they were building a new YouTube app for iOS which would be available on the App Store in time for the launch of iOS 6. Today, Google delivered with the launch of a brand-new native YouTube app for iPhone and iPod touch, now available on the App Store.
The new YouTube app features an interface not dissimilar to that of the Google+ app. The main view displays your subscription feed as a scrollable list of “cards”, and you can set this screen to display “Uploads only” or “Highlights”, which will include extra content such as Suggested Videos. A quick swipe to the right will reveal a menu with access to your account and settings, Subscriptions, and Channel Guide. The menu is quite bare-bones, though is nearly identical to the one on YouTube’s desktop site, and it would be nice to see shortcuts for things like Favourites, Playlists, and Watch Later added in a future update.
The new video player screen looks like a re-skinned version of the old iOS YouTube app. The top half of the screen displays the video (which will automatically jump to fullscreen when you rotate the device into landscape), while the bottom half shows video information, related videos, and comments. Fullscreen video playback uses a skinned video player with direct access to Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, and sharing options.
Overall, the app is very fast and fluid. Most of the functionality of the old YouTube app is still present, though there is currently no option to upload videos directly from the app. One other complaint I could make is that the app doesn’t support background audio playback, so if you were hoping to stream music from YouTube and listen to it in the background, you’re out of luck.
Interestingly, the new YouTube app is compatible with iOS 4.3 and higher – despite the fact that Apple has no plans to remove the built-in YouTube app from earlier versions of iOS. Regardless, iOS 6 users will be happy to have a native YouTube app available right out of the gate, which I will say is a much better option than YouTube’s mobile site.