Using an Android phone, the HTC Desire, we loaded the official Youtube app which took around two and a half seconds to open. In comparison, the Youtube Mobile site took around three seconds, so it was slightly longer. That doesn’t count the time it takes to open the web browser and open bookmarks, nor to type the address in if you haven’t already saved it to your favourites before.
So, perhaps it’s not quite as fast as the app, but it’s fairly similar, which is a big improvement on previous incarnations which were usually several times slower.
The biggest difference we noticed, however, is in the appearance. The default Youtube app on an Android phone is a little garish. It’s black and just displays a list of videos. To find information and comments you need to hit the tiny information button at the side, which can be difficult to hit. Buttons are in different places, or nowhere to be found. It all feels very counter-intuitive, particularly if you’re used to using the website on a PC.
Youtube Mobile gives a more genuine experience. It looks and feels like the standard Youtube page, except things are organised in a way that makes it feel user friendly on a smartphone.
When you click a video it displays the whole page for that video rather than just the video itself, so you can see the description, comments and so forth. It also includes the like and dislike buttons, Save To, Share, and an HQ button for higher quality (or lower if you want faster loading). If you scroll down you get Related Videos or Comments on seperate tabs.
This does not mean that you watch a video with all of that on the screen. As soon as you press the video to play it brings it up full-screen, which you can then rotate for the proper widescreen experience. This is fairly similar to the Youtube app.
The search feature ran much more smoothly on the mobile site than on the Youtube app. Results displayed quicker and retained the search bar, along with the home page button and the menu button, whereas the Youtube app only listed the videos.
One thing the website lacks over the app is an appropriate menu. If you hit the Menu button on your phone it brings up your browser menu, but of course the app has Search, Upload, Home, My account, Categories, and a Time filter.
This can be overcome to some degree via a Menu button built into the website itself which always features on every page. It looks like nine squares and is directly opposite the Youtube logo itself.
It also gives a wider range of options, including: Home, Browse, Favorites, Playlists, Subscriptions, My videos, and Settings. There’s a Sign In button at the top or Sign Out among the options if you’re already signed in.
Much of the speed improvement of the new version is down to HTML5, but the complete overhaul of the interface is what makes this such an appealing alternative to an app. The share button is particularly interesting, as it lets you share the video on Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, or send through email, without having to mess around with separate websites.
While the applications may be a second or two faster, YouTube Mobile is a richer and more genuine experience. We wouldn’t be surprised, if the trend toward HTML5 continues, more people flock to official HTML5 websites rather than applications.