YouTube videos on your Apple Watch – for real!

7 October 2015, 02:57

This is not a drill. Video Search lets you look-up YouTube videos and watch them, overcoming one of the most annoying restrictions of the Watch. It’s $2.99 in the App Store (£2.29 for Brits).

So, does it deliver?

Yes, and no. But mostly yes.

Video Search is a pretty simple app, as is necessitated by the Watch’s interface. Upon starting, the app shows a list of recommended videos, similar to that seen when you visit Alternatively, you can tap the Search button and use Siri to dictate a search term. This isn’t ideal, for obvious reasons, although works surprisingly well. We searched for PewPewDie, for example, and Siri got it correct aside from the spacing – it heard it as “pew pew die”. Still, that’s enough to find his videos.

Tap any video and it’ll be loaded for playback, with a circular on-screen progress display ticking around for longer video files that apparently must be loaded 100% before playback can commence. Our best guess is that the videos are initially cached on the iPhone, and then beamed across to the Watch.

Playback quality
Video quality isn’t great, with a relatively low frame rate (compared to desktop/iPhone playback) making things very so slightly jerky, and some aggressive and blocky compression is visible even on the tiny screen of the Watch. Again, we can only guess why this is happening, but it may well be hardware limitations and/or bandwidth limitations. There’s no playback quality settings to adjust.

Some videos also didn’t work in our tests – tapping the play button did nothing – while some videos didn’t offer a play option. This may well be because of digital rights restrictions.

What you get
Still, for those videos that do work – and that’s most of them – you get the whole thing and not just a snippet. In the App Store blurb the developers talk of previews, perhaps giving the impression you only get a few seconds of each video, but this is perhaps to hint at the less-than-perfect video quality and perhaps to appease the App Store overlords – the reason there’s not already an app like this for the Watch is because Apple only wants you to glance at the watch, or at most use it for short busts. Needless to say, if you’re watching a 14 minute PewPewDie walkthrough then you’re breaking this rule. Shhh! Don’t tell Apple!

The Watch app is also fast, considering some Watch apps can be so slow that you almost don’t want to bother. The companion iPhone app doesn’t do much aside from provide a list of the videos you’ve watched. You can also handoff watching a video to the iPhone instead of watching it on the Watch.

We expect this app to develop as time goes on. There’s presently no way to control the playback position, for example. You can only start and stop. You can control the volume with the digital crown as you might expect, however, and double-tapping the screen zooms-in to the video at the expense of cutting off the sides of the video frame.

There’s a lot to like in Video Search, and we’re thankful for the developers for getting this app into the App Store. We’re also not entirely sure how long it’ll stick around there, so you might want to grab it sooner rather than later.



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