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YouTube for iOS review: The best way to watch YouTube on the go

New picture-in-picture video features in the latest version of the YouTube app make browsing while you continue to watch easy.

Jason_Parker.jpg
Jason Parker
Jason_Parker.jpg

Jason Parker

Senior Editor / Reviews - Software

Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.

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The YouTube app for iPhone is the standalone app for browsing the site ever since Apple removed its version from the iOS, and frankly, it has been a big improvement. But in the latest update, a redesigned interface and new picture-in-picture video feature that lets you watch while you browse makes the app even better.

YouTube (iOS)
9.4

YouTube for iOS

The Good

The <b>YouTube</b> app for iOS is a great way to keep up with the channels you follow and new video discovery, and new picture-in-picture viewing makes browsing easier.

The Bad

Returning to a list of results requires you to use the picture-in-picture function; there is no back button in the new version.

The Bottom Line

With its clean design, new picture-in-picture features, and improved browsing, it's hard to argue that there's a better way to watch YouTube videos on iOS devices.

Browsing YouTube
Just like the Web site, with the YouTube app you'll be able to upload and watch videos, keep up with your favorite channels, browse your subscriptions and playlists, and much more. The app launches with a feed of videos that is a mix of videos from your subscriptions along with those recommended for you based on your watching habits. A search button in the upper right lets you search by video title, keyword, or tag, and also has a microphone button so you can you say your search term aloud.

If you touch the menu button in the upper left, you get a slide-out interface with a huge list of options divided up into three categories: managing your account and videos, managing your subscriptions, and YouTube video categories. In this latest version the layout for each of the sections is much cleaner, making it easier to get exactly where you want to go.

The YouTube video discovery section consists of a huge list of categories that are excellent for new video discovery. You can check out film and animation videos, music, sports, gaming, comedy, and really anything you can find if you were browsing the YouTube Web site.

Picture-in-picture features make browsing more fun (pictures)

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Watching videos
When it comes to actually watching videos, the latest version of the YouTube app offers new ways to continue watching a video in a smaller window while you browse. Once you find a video, you can hit play to watch, then simply touch and drag the video to the lower right corner to make it continue to play in a window. A touch and swipe back upwards will return it to regular size (without going full screen), and a drag to the left closes the video. Being able to move a playing video out of the way also means you'll be able to line up your next video in advance when you don't want to go to the trouble of making a playlist.

It's important to note that the picture-in-picture style of video watching is only in portrait orientation on the iPhone. Turning your iPhone sideways automatically goes to full screen (like the previous version of the app). On the iPad, you can use picture-in-picture mode in both portrait and landscape modes.

As always, there's a share button that lets you post the video to Google+, Twitter, or Facebook, and other options like sending via e-mail or Messages. All of the YouTube video-watching features are laid out with the touch screen in mind, and even after viewing only a few videos, it's easy to see it's a big improvement over the last version.

My one big complaint when YouTube came out as a standalone app was that it was not available on the iPad. Fortunately the app is now iOS universal. But now there's only one small nitpick I have with the iPad version. When I'm on a video page, there's no back button, so the only way back to a video feed or search result is by using picture-in-picture to reveal the list behind. I'm not sure if it's something Google needs to fix, but just be aware that there is no onscreen control for going back to the previous page.

Conclusion
When Google made its first standalone app for iPhone once Apple took its version off the OS, it was good, but not great. Now that the app has received some updates and new features like picture-in-picture and iPad support, it is even more deserving of being your go-to YouTube client.

YouTube (iOS)
9.4

YouTube for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 9Interface 9Performance 10