Updates to the YouTube app have been rolling in at a pretty rapid pace lately, with version 12.19 being the most recent to land on devices. There weren't any notable changes to be seen in the apps, but an examination of the apk did turn up a couple of things to get excited about. There's a mysterious new "reel" feature in the works and a handy function for wiping the Watch Later playlist of videos you've already seen.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
While looking around, I came across something that isn't really well-defined by its text, but it immediately caught my interest. There's a new feature called "reel" and it seems to be a place where you'll be able to upload videos.
The name "reel" is used in a few strings and layout names, and there's an icon for initiating uploads. Judging by the little bit of available text, the reels seem to resemble playlists. I doubt YouTube is going to rename playlists just to give them a better name, but this could certainly be an evolution. The phrasing of "your reel" and "couldn't upload to reel" use reel as a definite singular noun, which suggests all users will have exactly one, and there probably won't be any way to create more.
I haven't had any luck finding clues from YouTube's help pages or working Google search results, so at least the name is new.
Reels are probably intended for high-frequency uploaders, so this might not be a feature most people will use directly. However, it could become an important part of the presentation for channels in the future, so it will still be something we all encounter, especially if it's part of the first impression users get when they visit a channel or begin watching a series.
We might learn a bit more from updates in the future, but YouTube often keeps these things under wraps until a feature is nearly ready to launch, so the next thing we might learn could come from an official announcement.
Watch Later List: Fast Cleanup
If you've ever put the Watch Later feature to heavy use in the YouTube app, it becomes obvious almost immediately that cleanup isn't so great. Actually, it really sucks. That's because videos can only be removed by tapping an overflow menu and then finding and picking the option to remove it from the list. This has to be repeated for each video. It's unnecessarily slow and annoying.
YouTube is going to add a way to wipe the list of the videos you don't need to keep anymore. A new line of text advertises a new feature that will remove watched videos from the list.
<string name="remove_watched_header_tooltip_text">New! Easily remove all watched videos from this list.</string>
If you check the web interface, a "remove watched" button is already available and has been for a while (pictured below). The app will naturally mirror the same function, but judging by the name of the string, there may be a button in the header of the screen that looks different from the web interface.
I've tested the app on a handful of phones, but this command doesn't appear to be live on any of them yet. Of course, this is YouTube, so there may be a small group of devices or users that already have access.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.