About a week ago one of my international friends, Leigh Geary, Windows Mobile MVP and Editor in Chief of Coolsmartphone.com, wrote a news item about the availability of a new YouTube application for the Windows Mobile- and Symbian S60 platform.
In this article I will provide a short overview of this new version of the YouTube application for Windows Phone. In addition I will share some of my practical experiences, although I must admit I’m not a heavy YouTube user on my HTC HD2 Windows Phone.
Some pre-installation information
On the Official Google Mobile Blog you can read the following background information about the YouTube application design strategy:
“We strongly believe that faster is better. The YouTube Mobile app is designed to be the fastest way to find and play a video on your smartphone. In the initial release we minimized the number of features and focused on speed for things that matter – app startup, finding a video, and starting playback.”
With YouTube being one of the largest search engines, focused on seach of video’s, the YouTube application for Windows Phone probably is the fastest way to find an play video’s on your smartphone while on the go. A short application overview will be provided in the second section of this article.
When you start the YouTube application for Windows Phone from the Windows Mobile 6.5 start menu, you first need to select your country from a list, which is shown in the right screenshot above. This selection is necessary to view, read and agree with the terms and conditions, presented in the language of your selected county.
You need to confirm that you agree with the terms and conditions by hitting the right softkey with the accept command, that is shown in the left screenshot above.
The next screen shows you a warning that using the YouTube application for Windows Phone, could result in additional data charges, and roaming costs abroad. I personally use a “flat-free” cellular data subscription from Vodafone, however it is good to inform people who don’t have a flat free cellular data subscription, so that costs can be minimized.
YouTube application – A quick overview
In the left screenshot above you can see the “main screen” of the YouTube application for Windows Phone.
In the upperpart you can see a large search box and large search button, that are optimized for touch control. In the bottompart of the screen you can see five buttons (1) browse videos, (2) favorites, (3) subscriptions, (4) playlists, and (5) my video’s. In the middelpart you can see a preview of a YouTube video, with the according information on the right side. On the Official Google Mobile Blog it is summarized as:
“In today’s release we have added search query suggestions, ‘My Account’ support, and a new homescreen user interface that is optimized for larger screens. Now when you log into your YouTube account on our phone, you can view your favorites, subscriptions and playlists from wherever you are.”
In the right screenshot above you see the pop-up window of the sign-in process, where you need to enter your YouTube username (= Gmail account) and the according password. You can sign-in via de right softkey “menu” on the main screen.
A pop-up window is shown if you the the touch-optimized button labelled “browse video’s”. In this pop-up window, shown in the left screenshot above, you can choose three types of filters to browse video’s: (1) top rated, (2) most viewed, or (3) most recent video’s.
As an example I selected the most viewed filter. In the right screenshot above you can see the resulting most viewed screen. In the upper part of the screen you can see a “pivot module” with a preview of the YouTube video. The left and right arrows on the sides suggest to the end user that you can pivot to the left and to the right, and on the HTC HD2 this is fully accomplished via touch control. In the bottom part of the screen you can see the video details and description of the specific selected video in the middle of the pivot module.
No matter which of the three filters you select, the resulting experience with the “pivot module” is always the same.
I already mentioned in the introduction that I’m not a heavy YouTube user, so unfortunately I haven’t favorited a video yet. However the idea from this button is clear, you can easily find and view your favorite YouTube videos in this part of the application, without the need to search for it. 🙂
Another new feature in the YouTube application for Windows Phone is to easily view your subscriptions within two clicks. In the left screenshot above you can see the pop-up window which provides an overview of my subscriptions: xboxprojectnatal and windowsphone.
When I select for example the windowsphone subscription from the pop-up menu, a new screen with just the videos of the selected subscription are shown. The lateste video of the windowsphone subscription is the Demo from MIX Marketplace keynote, which you can see in the right screenshot. In fact this is a kind of similar experience, with the “filters” of the browse videos button. Again you see the “pivot module” in the upper part of the screenshot, and details plus description of the specific video in the bottom part of the screenshot.
In this part of the YouTube application for Windows Phone you can view, download an play the stored YouTube playlists on your Windows Phone. For example you have compiled a playlist with video clips of your favorite songs of the moment. Now you can easily access the playlist and listen to your preferred songs, without the need of addional search actions. In my personal case however I get a “zero results” message in the pop-up window, since I haven’t stored a playlist in my YouTube account. 🙂
The last touch optimized button on the main screen of the YouTube application for Windows Phone is labelled My Videos. Just like many of the other features, you need to be signed in with your YouTube / Gmail account to access your videos. However remark, that you don’t have to sign-in again for every feature, in that respect it is a single sign-on principle.
About two months ago I wrote an article on my personal blog “Project Natal for Xbox 360 – A Controller Free Gaming Experience” in which I embedded a video of the Project Natal CES 2010 announcement with Robbie Bach, President, Entertainment & Devices Division. So I uploaded the video to my YouTube account and included it in the article. As you can see in the right screenshot above, this is the last video I have uploaded to my YouTube account.
Google suggestions in YouTube app
On the Official Google Mobile Blog you can read the folowwing description of a new key feature, that is widely known from the pc-search-experience:
“Another feature that we have added is query suggestions. When you type into the YouTube search box, you get relevant suggestions. This saves on typing which is especially useful for mobile phones where text input may be difficult.”
As you can see in the screenshots above I started to type the word windows, and while I was typing suggestions for the search query are presented to me similar as on my Windows PC. I wanted to search for videos about the Windows Phone 7 series, which is suggested in the list. So I simply select that suggestion and hit he search button. The result is shown in the right screenshot, with 2151 YouTube video’s regarding the Windows Phone 7 series.
Final thoughts and overall conclusion
The YouTube application for Windows Phone brings almost the same set of features and functions, that I have a in a browser on my Windows PC, to the mobile usage scenario. Despite we are talking about a Google product, I see a similar kind of reasoning as the Microsoft strategy of three-screens-and-a-cloud !!
The application design is clean, and optimized for touch control. A small personal comment in the design might be the implementation that the description of a specific video takes up more screenspace than the pivot mechanism. In other words I would like to see larger previews, and less description. Furthermore the design feels very consistant, with similar experiences across the different buttons.
If you are a heavy YouTube user this is a great application to enrich your Windows Phone. Especially when you are talking about the HTC HD2 with its great 4.3″ capacitive screen and awesome multimedia capabilities.
“To download the app on your Windows Mobile or Nokia S60 phone, simply visit http://m.youtube.com/app in your phone’s browser.”
If you are a Symbian S60 user, you might want to check out the review of Steve Litchfield, Editor of All About Symbian.com, “YouTube Mobile hits v2.4, gets account support“.