Last Updated: August 10th, 2012

YouTube is the ugly duckling of the Gapps family. That's right, I said it.

The 100% black design and horrible gradients make it look like a 13 year old boy's geocities page. It certainly doesn't look like it's from a professional company. It's only saving grace it that, since it's a video app, you aren't subjected to the UI that often when you are using at it. Thankfully, with the arrival of Ice Cream Sandwich, amateur hour is over.

You should know the drill by now. We're picking apart Ice Cream Sandwich and comparing it to the previous phone version of Android, Gingerbread. We've already covered Gmail and Google Talk, so go check those out if you missed them. The ICS screens are from the emulator, which is not 100% accurate, and the ICS apps are from a leaked system dump, which is not 100% finished.

First up, about screens:

 wm_screenshot-1319662926004  wm__0003_2011-10-26-17h01_25

Hmm. There sort-of aren't any. Consistency fail. We're moving from 2.2.16 to ...3.2.3? What happened to putting completely meaningless 4.0s on everything? YouTube is either not done, or marching to it's own beat. We'll see.


wm_screenshot-1319653801839  wm__0013_2011-10-26-14h30_14

Now this a breath of fresh air. YouTube goes from black on black on black to a much classier black header and white body. Again we see the results of Google's "crusade against the menu button" by exposing Home, Browse, and Account as tabs. You can navigate tabs by touch or by swiping left to right. They killed the "by" prefix next to every author, "New" gets a nice readability boost on the white background, and it wouldn't be ICS without some sexy, sexy whitespace. It's brighter, cleaner, and easier to navigate.

The Gingerbread thumbnails are just... broken. YouTube videos are almost all 16:9. First, they picked a thumbnail shape that requires adding black bars around every thumbnail. Then, as if to highlight their poor decision, they decided to draw a white box around every thumbnail. If they just skipped the white box no one would see the black bars on a black background! They also treat every thumbnail as if it is 16:9. So 4:3 thumbnails, like the "Kaskade & Skrillex" video, get top and bottom bars.

ICS Thumbnails are now closer to 16:9 (but oddly not 16:9), there are no longer black bars around every thumbnail, and they correctly handle 4:3 thumbnails. Good job.


The black part of the app is a nice example of the new action bar introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich. Developers just populate it and the framework handles how it is displayed. In portrait it displays in a stacked view, and in landscape it all merges into one bar. Very cool.

(If you were expecting a mini version of the Honeycomb "Wall of Video" it's nowhere to be found in this app. Sorry.)

wm_screenshot-1319653847069  wm__0012_2011-10-26-14h30_21

"Browse" on the Gingerbread version of YouTube makes me feel like I've wandered unto some unfinished back alley. ICS dips into it's 50 gallon tub of polish and makes this section look much more respectable.

wm_screenshot-1319670164020  wm_Untitled-3

Seeing the ICS version really makes you wonder what they were thinking in Gingerbread when they went with a 3 row header. The browse category (Science & Technology) would fit perfectly next to the YouTube logo. ICS makes this obvious improvement, adds the now standard logo/back button, and dumps the swipe tabs for two dropdown boxes. They also have the good sense to put both list modifiers, time frame and views, next to each other.

wm_screenshot-1319653878234 wm__0010_2011-10-26-16h52_06 wm__0009_2011-10-26-16h52_23

Account has switched from swipe tabs to a weird intermediate screen that lets you access your uploads, playlists, favorites, and subscriptions. They should either make this screen a list, like "Browse," or have Browse adopt this design. They both use the same assets, they should use the same layout too.

I really don't see why there aren't swipe tabs once you choose a section. I guess they only do one set of tabs per app. They changed video options button from a down arrow to a "thumbnail corner arrow" for a much cleaner and more space efficient look.

Oh, by the way, YouTube also supports multiple accounts now.

Playing a Video

wm_screenshot-1319662634214  wm__0007_2011-10-26-16h57_06

What a huge difference! The hideous grey to black gradients on the tabs, buttons, and header are gone. The flatter look is much more modern, professional, and consistent with the rest of Android. What were they thinking with the Gingerbread version? No other app that looks like that.

The thumb buttons have moved down below the subscription, and they just couldn't stop themselves from adding a +1 button. Both videos are paused, it's interesting that they switched from a pause symbol to a play symbol. I'm really not sure which is correct. They symbol being in the corner sort-of reminds me of a VCR; centering it gives much more of a "web video" vibe.


Gingerbread has a "More" button that gives you access to "Flag," "Save to," "Favorite," "Share," and "Copy URL". Other than "Share," these options are no where to be found on-screen in ICS. They are only available from the hardware menu button. All throughout ICS, Google has been trying to move options from the menu button to the regular app view, and this is going backwards. Hopefully it's just a symptom of YouTube being unfinished.

wm_screenshot-1319662730522  wm__0001_2011-10-26-16h59_03

Please excuse the emulator's horrific rendering. It really hates landscape mode.

In full screen mode they've added a nice header with a back button, the title, share and search. The HQ button still says HQ - Honeycomb has an HD button. Maybe it only says HD if your phone has an HD resolution (I would check, but the emulator won't boot in Phone HD). The seek bar gets a redesign too. The new one looks better, but the old one is a little more precise. For some strange reason there is a full screen button when we are already in full screen. Pressing it will exit full screen and take you to a sideways portrait app. It's not released yet for a reason.


wm_screenshot-1319853746821 wm__0004_2011-10-26-17h01_12 wm__0002_2011-10-26-17h02_04 wm__0001_2011-10-26-17h02_22

OK.. I think we can definitively call YouTube "unfinished."  There is no way it goes out the door with the settings like this. It's broken down into 4 ridiculously barren pages. Every other ICS app puts the options in one long list, like Gingerbread. I'm not even sure why they took the time to do this.

The actual options are all in there, somewhere. Sadly there are no new additions.

Wrap Up

YouTube has a few rough edges, but overall it's a massive improvement from the old version. It hits most of the major Ice Cream Sandwich themes: More exposed options, more whitespace, and an overall cleaner design. Unfortunately, it also lines up with the one bad aspect of ICS: it's very light on new features. Multi account support is the only new addition.

If you were wondering, No, YouTube still doesn't support multitasking. You still can't pop out of the app for a second without losing your spot in the video, and you can't play videos in the background. I've only been begging for this since version 1. Someone turn on the "XDA" bat signal or something.

As usual, if there's anything you feel I didn't cover, or you have any questions, press the comment button and get typing!

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://kennydude.me Joe Simpson

    I really do hope they add annotations. I can live with everything from Gingerbread, but it's annoying that I can't join in Interactive videos :(

  • garbagedick

    Can you view your watch later playlist in the new version?

    • Ron Amadeo

      Nope. =/

      • Nocturnhabeo

        BALLS why didn't they do that


    Lack of multitasking is fail, best would be even option to save it somewhere in phone memory/sd card (even protected) to watch later but meh .... hope they add at least multitasking support

  • Foo

    I hope they fix the issue of the wrong video being played...this happens on both my SGS II and my Acer Iconia A500. You can get it to play the correct video by toggling HD on/off, but it seems there are quite a few people with the same problem :-(

  • garbagedick

    Fuck, that's frustrating. I use the watch later option at work all of the time. but when I get home, I have to use a laptop to see them, when I'd rather use my tablet...

  • rock

    Hi Ron, I was looking at the screenshots. Is there an option to set to dark theme. I would be worried abt the battery life if white background is the only option as dark colors really helps Amoled screen.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Nope, no themes on anything.

    • Dee

      +seconded. I like the black theme. If the new version had a black or dark color scheme to it, I'd love it. As it is, I don't see myself using it with all that white in there. It's just too draining on the battery to continuously have white all over the place. Maybe next time, Google.

      • BobbyPhoenix

        I third that. The all black one looks so much more classy. Better on the eyes. I don't like the new one at all.

      • Eric

        I cannot believe you truly think some white on a youtube screen would be what drains your battery...

        Really? Even on amoled, that's absurd. White drains your battery slightly faster over large periods of time. Too many people think that black is off on these amoled screens. That's not true. Try looking at it in the dark. At least with the SGS1, black is most definitely on. Probably a minimum value needed to keep the screen responsive to change. Still, it's on, and doesn't hurt that terribly much less than white on the battery.

        • Roberto

          NotNoob. Amoled screens do not produce any light when displaying black, ever looked at a blank page on an ebook reader in the dark, it is most assuredly black. White is a huge drain on battery power, particularly as the blue subpixels are horribly ineficent.

    • lanciadeltarat1

      I totally agree it needs a dark mode,I mean how hard is it for them to give you that... I like the choices on the Sgs11's stock text app,dark but not black.

    • lanciadeltarat1

      I fourth it!...I hate white screens.Ron ,why do you always call something childish when you don't like it.So I'm into childish things.

  • Ron

    Does this really count as new? Android 3.2.3 is the current version on my Asus Transformer.

    • Ron

      *YouTube* 3.2.3

  • Russ Gibbons

    It is sad that you think white text on black background is amateur 13 yr old boy design. It is easier to read for the eyes, better contrast, better battery saving. I get upset when the best design for the human body and energy savings is trashed and replaced by harder to read less efficient "fashionable" layout. Save your subjective opinions on colors for you own clothing, so you don't influence programmers to change their design, and leave the rest of us stuck with your harder to read colors.

    Russ G.

    • Foo

      Personally, I think there should be the option to toggle between a 'day' and 'night' mode. With night mode being an inverse of the day mode. A lot of e book readers allow this and it allows you to use the best setting for the conditions.

    • Ron Amadeo

      "The 100% black design and horrible gradients make it look like a 13 year old boy's geocities page."
      The "And" part is important.
      Black designs can look nice, YouTube does not look nice.

      • lanciadeltarat1


    • Victor

      youtube is currently the hiddious app of android. The gradients are just awful on that black. Also to correct you, white backgrounds make text easier to read. Its a common design decision. t

      • Chuck

        You are incorrect. Black on white is easiest to read when using pigments. However when using light, such as a phone display, white on black is much easier to read. I'll also point out that a dark background is better for video and saves power when displayed. Also if you want all of your apps to be pretty and white then buy an iphone

        • lanciadeltarat1

          You know what he meant,why nit pick

  • Alessandro

    I think the full screen button is for phones like the galaxy nexus that have on screen buttons. The full screen button will hide them and only after you uncheck the full screen option will the buttons reappear.

  • Mike

    Nice write-up Ron. I agree with you about the updated color scheme, I think it looks more classy too.

  • Nino64

    I been waiting for the " THIS VIDEO IS NOT AVAILABLE ON MOBILE" disappear I don't get it why they block those videos 0.o

  • Rogue2204

    I like the overall functionality improvements, but I have to agree with the few others that I like the old color scheme much better. :p

  • Chuck

    I'm disappointed that there doesn't seem to be a lot of new features. The app has not caught up to the website in that regard. I do like the improved thumbnails and the new font looks great. As far as the new aesthetics go I will wait to see the "dark" theme

  • RockingmyEvo3D

    Personally this youtube application is just fine one thing about google is when you least expect it you find an update to all their related applications which is very refreshing. Better youtube days will come forward soon meanwhile youtube is perfectly fine as is....

  • Andy

    i see most think what i thought straight away... white? battery drain! :O its a phone?!? its better with power than without

    "yea i'd show you my kinky new white youtube app but my battery is dead" :(

    lets hope someone themes it lol

    @Google....add liquorice to that ice cream! :P

    • Eric

      White doesn't drain that much more battery than black. If you're on youtube on your phone, those videos will kill your battery 100x faster than some brighter pixels ever will. Again, AMOLED black != off.

  • joey

    i like the old better

  • Nich

    there is always an argument about black on white or white on black color schemes . everyone seems to like something different .

    the solution is to allow us to choose a foreground color and background color from a preference menu .... like so many computer programs .

    my preference is corn silk (tan) background and navy blue (dark blue) foreground .


    • http://sketaful.se Sketaful

      You are so correct! (About everyones different taste, not the colorscheme. :P)

  • Ali

    I also like the black Youtube scheme. Sure the UI could use a major overhaul, and I like some of the ideas here; as others have mentioned there could be a pref for day/night or something. If google actually cares and is listening to opinions about this kind of stuff, giving (even limited) choice is always preferable to deciding for people what they should have. That would be the Apple approach.

  • malnisten

    While I did love the look of YouTube on Honeycomb and was hoping it would make its way onto phones, I have to say this update looks pretty nice. And it actually looks like YouTube now.

    I always liked the layout of the current YouTube app, it just looks hideous aesthetically. Good to see them keep the overall layout but add a nicer coat of paint to it.