YouTube Capture: Google’s Trojan Horse?

In recent months, Google has shown an increasingly intense focus on iOS. In addition to last year’s acqui-hiring of the popular Sparrow and Snapseed teams, they have released new apps for Chrome and Maps, and overhauled existing YouTube and Gmail offerings. However, larger waves are being made under the surface; the uniform design language being rolled out across their entire catalogue may not be entirely innocent. Does Google have a subversive agenda on iOS? Well, if YouTube Capture is anything to go by, nothing is off the table.

On the surface, Capture appears to be just another simple video recording app offering only minor improvements over the stock iOS option. However, its simplicity should not be underestimated; it may just be its most threatening attribute. How does Capture fit into Google’s iOS plans? Can it replace the default Camera app? Let’s check it out.

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Instant-On, Instant Quality

From the outset Capture impresses with its ultra-quick performance with the boot time being almost non-existent. Rather impressively, a simple horizontal rotation of the iPhone is the only further interaction required to start recording video automatically. It seems almost comical that such a subtly brilliant feature has taken so long to be implemented, however, Google has finally managed to do so perfectly.

Instant-on access with landscape only shooting.

Instant-on access with landscape only shooting.

With Capture, Google is also trying to eradicate the shooting of video in portrait mode by forcing users into landscape. The app issues a prompt when trying to record in portrait; this restriction can be removed but, honestly, I can see no reason why you should. Although only a minor feature, it is easily my favourite aspect of the entire app. It epitomises Google’s thoughtful and detail driven development ethos and video quality will be the better for it.

Portrait shooting is restricted and video length can be trimmed before uploading.

Portrait shooting is restricted and video length can be trimmed before uploading.

Google’s drive for quality doesn’t end there, either. Automatic colour correction and stabilised shooting can be applied via the app’s initial prompt, and several stock soundtracks can be added during editing. The iPhone 5 and 4S are capable of shooting video at full-HD 1080p quality, and Capture now supports the higher standard. Previous versions of the app restricted users to a paltry 720p, possibly to boost upload speeds, however, my testing hasn’t indicated speed is an issue at 1080p.

Shoot and Share in Three Taps

Yes, you read that right. In just three taps your videos of cute cats, raucous dogs and funny falls can be shot, edited and shared across several social networks including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Shooting requires no extra taps to start, frames are optimised automatically and all that’s left to do is select the service(s) for upload and, voilà, done. Again, previous versions only allowed for single uploads but this latest version has seemingly rectified any of the app’s lingering deficiencies.

All videos are saved so they can be uploaded after the fact if necessary.

All videos are saved so they can be uploaded after the fact if necessary.

In general, I found the app’s performance to be impeccable with next to no bugs to report. One minor issue I did happen to encounter was with signing into Twitter, therefore, I wasn’t able to test uploads to the service — others did prove to be consistently snappy, though. I expect the bug to be fixed sooner rather than later given Google’s new found focus on polish, however, for now it’s a little annoyance easily rectified by exporting videos to the Camera Roll and uploading from there.

Google’s Trojan Horse?

As the iPhone’s rear camera has improved, so has its credibility as a legitimate point-and-shoot replacement. Such advancement has been aided by the quick access to the Camera app via the lock screen allowing for great reaction shots, however, shooting video still requires some effort to access. Therefore, I have found that placing replacing Camera.app (no longer needed) with Capture on the home screen allows for quicker access to video capabilities. The efficiency of the move is enough to question Google’s true intentions with the release, and gives credence to theories of subversion.

Google has put a premium on simplicity and quality. Minimalist interface and 1080p uploads.

Google has put a premium on simplicity and quality. Minimalist interface and 1080p uploads.

Capture’s superior speed and greater sharing options make the replacement a no-brainer, and, regardless of any subversive element, Google is clearly protecting YouTube’s presence on iOS. By filling the gaps left by Apple’s sub-par efforts, Google, off the back of the Maps debacle, is looking to make its service ubiquitous on the iPhone and iPad. After all, Apple did replace YouTube with Vimeo on OS X, giving more than enough reason for concern. Either way, Google’s power play has Apple beaten hands-down.

That’s not where the story ends. In fact, Capture is just one of many pawns in Google’s efforts to upset the iOS apple cart — no pun intended. Other pawns in their armoury bear ubiquitous names like Gmail, Chrome and Search all of which have seen major refreshes/releases, however, it is the way Google is developing its apps that should worry Apple. Each features a distinctive and uniform design instantly recognisable as Google’s own, and this gives them a native feel on an alien platform.

Wrap-up

When an app is as well developed and effective as Capture, it can be difficult not to gush excessively. After all, what Google has produced is great and far outstrips Apple’s own efforts; however, the app’s sole intention is to make sharing quick and easy — hardly groundbreaking in the information sharing era. That said, Capture has achieved its goal with aplomb and has furthered Google’s presence on a rival OS. Apple won’t mind this added focus given that it is on their own terms, however, Capture should be a warning to Apple’s design executives — they are losing their home field advantage.


Summary

A simple and effective video sharing tool designed with quality in mind. If you love shooting video, you'll love YouTube Capture.

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