YouTube Mobile Site Trumps Dedicated App
Goodbye YouTube software app, hello YouTube Web app. Google aims to kill off the YouTube mobile software app with a better mobile Web version compatible with iPhone and Android phones. The new YouTube mobile Web site was introduced Wednesday for smartphones and uses higher-quality HMTL5 video, a more polished user interface, and features video search suggestions.
Key Differences With Web App
Since Google doesn't control the native YouTube app on the iPhone -- Apple does -- there are features you won't find in the Web version of YouTube. For example, the native iPhone YouTube app features the 5-star rating system, which the site abandoned in January in favor of thumbs up/down ratings.
Another problem with the native iPhone app is that it uses video streams meant for EDGE (2.5G) connection speeds, which are usually quite blurry -- especially on the iPhone 4's high-res Retina Display. Given the competition between Apple and Google in the smartphone area, perhaps YouTube decided to up the ante with an improved mobile site.
The new YouTube mobile site (see Harry McCracken's quick tour) leverages higher-quality HTML5 videos, which won't open in your dedicated YouTube app anymore. So instead of using the app, Google wants you to use the mobile site (it even allows you to bookmark the page on your home screen by tapping the plus sign at the bottom in Safari and tap "Add to Home Screen").
YouTube Web App Advantages
There are several key advantages of the new YouTube mobile site over the dedicated app. First off, you get higher quality video. I pitted an iPhone (dedicated app) alongside an iPod touch (Web app) and the video quality on the iPod touch was noticeably better.
The YouTube Web app also features search suggestions as you type in the search box, something that is missing from the native app. The Web app makes it easier to comment and rate videos as well, and clips will play within the browser, and fill the screen when the phone is oriented horizontally.
Additionally, any new features YouTube rolls out for its site will be integrated faster in the Web app, rather than waiting for an OS update for your phone to integrate them.
The one hurdle YouTube's mobile site will have to jump is getting iPhone users to add the Web app to their home screen, so that it is easier to access. As seen on TechCrunch, Google has that ground covered -- when you visit the site from your iPhone a pop-up will prompt you to bookmark the site.
In recent weeks Google has also made several updates to the interface for the mobile Gmail Web app that runs on Apple mobile devices, giving users a more solid alternative to the built-in Mail app on iPhones and iPads. This follows the tensions between Apple and Google with the rejected Google Voice app, which took the form of a Web app as well, signalling that the search giant is still trying to reach the huge iOS user base.
If you haven't tried the new YouTube mobile yet, the company made a brief promotional video demonstrating the new features (embedded below).
Are YouTube's new mobile site extra features enough to convince you to ditch the native iPhone app? Sound off in the comments.