If you want to watch YouTube videos from your Android device, there's really only one way to go: the official YouTube app by Google. You can try other third-party apps or even the mobile YouTube site, but none of them compares to the official app's feature set and stability. Heck, in some ways YouTube for Android's mobile-specific functionality even surpasses the full desktop site.
As expected, the YouTube Android app is styled with the minimalist, card-based theme of Google's other mobile products, like Google+ and Google Now. Thumbnail images are wide, and most of the interface is skinned in white and muted gray, save for the high-contrast menu bar on the left. Details like the pinned searchbar up top, HD-quality content (when available), and smooth scrolling throughout give the app a polished feel that makes it a pleasure to use. It's even optimized for tablets, giving you even more screen real estate to watch and search.
With YouTube's extensive navigation bar, there are plenty of ways to find content on the video site. To start, there's the What to watch page, which offers a mix of recommended videos and new content posted by your channel subscriptions. Beyond that, you can see just your Subscriptions, just your Recommendations, videos that are Trending, and any Live programming that might be playing at the moment. Playlists and Favorites are, of course, easily accessible from the menu bar. And lastly, you can jump directly to any of YouTube's categories, so you can browse videos related to Film, Gaming, Comedy, and so on.
As a whole, the browsing and search experience here is very much on par with the Web site. However, I would have appreciated a smaller grid view, which would allow me to browse more videos on one screen.
Watching videos on the YouTube app is dead-simple if you're at all familiar with the video site (and I'm sure you are). You can read or leave comments below the video, or simply give a video a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. One detail that's really nice is the way the app keeps the video pinned to the top of the screen in portrait mode. This allows you to scroll through an endless list of comments while keeping your eye on what everyone is chirping about.
Without question, one of the best things about the YouTube app is its new picture-in-picture feature. With this, you can shrink a video down to the corner of your screen (in either landscape or portrait mode), then go ahead and search for other videos or browse through categories while it's still playing. To use the feature, just swipe down on the video, hit the arrow key on the top left, or hit the back button on your device (any of the three options will work). From there, you can simply swipe up to make the video big again or swipe left or right to close it.
My only gripe about the picture-in-picture is that it doesn't continue playing a video when you leave the app. Since I like listening to music through YouTube, I would've especially appreciated the ability to, say, send a text message with at least the audio persisting in the background.
Saving, sharing, and uploading
Conveniently, YouTube for Android offers a few ways to save, share, and keep track of videos. First, while you're watching, you can use the "+" to add a video to a playlist, your Watch later list, or your Favorites. These lists are synced to your account, so you can access them from any of your devices. Alternatively, you can use Android's share protocol to share any video via other installed apps on your device. And lastly, the app lets you see your viewing history (across all of your devices), which is convenient in case you want to watch a video that you forgot to mark or add to a list.
And of course, the YouTube app also lets you upload video directly to your YouTube account. When doing so, you can add a video title, description and tags, and you can set the video to Public, Unlisted, or Private.
When you're on the go, there are a few options for watching YouTube videos. You can try some of the third-party clients, none of which has gained any significant traction on Google Play as of yet, or you can go to YouTube's mobile Web site, which probably wouldn't make much sense. As it is now, the official YouTube for Android app should be your go-to method for watching YouTube videos because, quite frankly, it's stable and packed with features. Before the recent redesign, the app was already solid. But now, with its card-inspired visual design, access to playlists, and incredibly convenient picture-in-picture feature, the app is even better.