YouTube: A Bold Change You’re Sure to Love or Hate

With iOS 7’s release date just a few (supposed) weeks away, we’ve officially entered my favorite time of year: mass update season. When a new version of iOS is set to be unleashed, most developers release updated versions of their apps to support it. While iOS 7 has plenty of goodness under the hood, the most visible shift is, of course, the brand spanking new interface design, and many apps are sure to be updated to gel with the new look.

While the more minimal look and feel of iOS 7 is new to the OS, it’s been a staple of Google’s apps for quite some time. With the release of version 2.0, YouTube now falls in line with Google’s minimal design standards, and includes an interesting new method of interacting with videos. Hit the jump to learn more about the recently updated YouTube app.

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An Interface Fit for iOS 7

As stated previously, nearly all of Google’s apps have featured their trademark minimal design. Pre-version 2.0 of YouTube was a bit of an exception to this rule, as it featured texture and depth throughout the app — but no more. The app now falls in line with the flat design you’ll find in Google+ and Google Search, including the use of Google’s beloved cards.

So long texture and gradients (and most instances of drop shadows).

So long texture and gradients (and most instances of drop shadows).

Before the update, the video view made use of a three-tab submenu to navigate between video information, suggested videos and comments. This information has been combined into a single view, with each category separated by cards. The Add and Share buttons have been relocated to the bottom of the screen, and draw far more attention to themselves than before, which is a big plus — especially for the option to add videos to playlists, which was hidden away previously.

The video view before and after.

The video view before and after.

The video window is less cluttered now, with the removal of the thumbs up and thumbs down buttons (now displayed below the video), share button and the video’s title along the top. The same player controls (including the AirPlay icon) remain along the bottom, with a more transparent control bar that reduces the distraction caused by the controls when they’re on-screen. I personally find most of these design and interface tweaks make the app more welcoming, and certain features far more discoverable than in the previous version.

You won't mind the video controls as much now.

You won’t mind the video controls as much now.


An update that quickly divided YouTube users is the new picture-in-picture video navigation scheme. When you’ve begun playback of a video in portrait mode, you’ll no longer see the header that included the back and search buttons. Instead, you’ll find a down arrow icon in the upper left corner of the video that, when tapped, minimizes the video and relocates to the lower right corner of the screen (swiping down on the video also achieves the same effect). You can get rid of the video by swiping it left while it’s in its minimized state.

You'll need to get a feel for which types of videos work well in the minimized mode.

You’ll need to get a feel for which types of videos work well in the minimized mode.

Playback continues while in the video is minimized, allowing you to multitask in the app. This shouldn’t be confused with iOS multitasking, which allows you to play a video when you exit the app — a feature that’s still not available in YouTube. Videos will continue to play almost anywhere, even when accessing the sidebar. The only time I found the video stopped playback is when I accessed various options in the Settings view.

Video playback continues in almost every view.

Video playback continues in almost every view.

While browsing the App Store reviews, I found many users giving YouTube one star reviews because of this new picture-in-picture navigation scheme. I also found multiple one star reviews simply because they didn’t like the new app icon, which I quite like. Many individuals don’t respond well to things that are unfamiliar, and this new navigation scheme is very unique and quite alien for most, so I understand the backlash. At first I wasn’t a fan, but I’ve come to like the concept of the video window being an independent element, and I think most individuals will appreciate the change once they’ve spent more time with the app.

Send to TV

Since Jacob Penderworth’s review in September 2012, Google released four updates to YouTube prior to version 2.0 that included some nifty features. One that I’d like to spotlight is Send to TV. AirPlay is great feature if you own an Apple TV, especially for sending YouTube videos from your iPhone to your TV. For individuals with a Smart TV or select devices (e.g. Xbox 360, Playstation 3) that don’t have an Apple TV, YouTube’s Send to TV feature will achieve the same feat.

Labeling a TV/device is optional, but recommended if you use use the feature on multiple TVs/devices.

Labeling a TV/device is optional, but recommended if you use use the feature on multiple TVs/devices.

Making the feature work isn’t quite as simple as AirPlay, as it requires you to pair your phone with your TV or device. Setup is fairly straightforward, though, which starts by visiting the Settings menu in the YouTube app on your TV/device and selecting the Pair Devices option (which may vary depending on the device). You’ll be given a number that you’ll enter into your phone, after you’ve navigated to the Connected TVs view in the settings. I only spent a short amount of time with this feature, but found that it worked without issue on my Xbox 360.


Playlists have been a staple of YouTube for quite some time, but version 2.0 of the app now includes the ability to search for playlists. In addition, you can now tap a Play All button in a playlist to initiate playback of all included videos. When Send to TV mode is activated, you can continue to browse the app and add more videos to a specialized playlist called TV Queue. It’s worth nothing, however, that if you turn off Send to TV all of the videos in your queue will disappear.

Searching for playlists is a minor, but very welcome feature.

Searching for playlist is a minors, but very welcome feature.

Missing Features & Issues

I dislike using the term “missing features,” only because I don’t know the behind-the-scenes details of an app’s development. However, the continued lack of variable playback quality (e.g. 480p, 720p) in YouTube is extremely disappointing. Granted, I have great LTE coverage and speeds in my city, but I’m fortunate. Individuals rocking an iPhone 4/4s are stuck with 3G speeds, and the ability to select playback quality would greatly reduce load times.

Videos over 15 minutes tend to get very blurry.

Videos over 15 minutes tend to get very blurry.

Another big disappointment is the lack of background support. Many individuals use YouTube to listen to music, for reasons I don’t know or understand, but the ability to lock the screen and continue playback would be a cherished feature by many. I came across a rather odd issue that causes videos to become extremely blurred, which only occurs when the video’s duration exceeds 15 minutes. At times I was able to correct the issue by scrubbing to the end of the video and returning to the beginning, but it wasn’t a guaranteed fix.

The Bottom Line

Since its release, YouTube has received a number of quality features since its initial release, but version 2.0 brings about a great deal of change for the app. As a fan of minimal and flat design, the new interface feel more inviting to me, and fits in much better with Google’s remaining stable of apps. Picture-in-picture mode may be hated by many now, but I find it to be a bold change by the YouTube developers that demonstrates their understanding of people’s habit of continually searching for more content while watching videos.

One aspect of YouTube that could have taken a hit with the new picture-in-picture mode is accessibility, but that’s certainly not the case. The app works incredibly well with VoiceOver, as each is button properly labeled and thorough descriptions are provided to help users understand how to utilize picture-in-picture mode.

We’ve shared our thoughts on the new picture-in-picture mode, now tell us what you think of in the comments!


Admire the new interface as you search for playlists while playing a minimized video.