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:
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.
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.)
"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!