Online video site YouTube is huge online and in the browser, but not quite as big on the biggest screen in people’s homes — the TV. Partly that’s because the user experience isn’t as good, as users are forced to navigate around billions of videos with archaic remote controls. YouTube is seeking to correct that, with an update to its Android and Google TV experiences to enable improved navigation of the video site’s content, directly from the mobile device.
The addition of the Google TV connectivity to YouTube’s Android apps will go a long way toward improving usability of both. The new feature will allow YouTube viewers to browse, search, and navigate videos on their mobile phones, and then send them directly to a Google TV device on the same WiFi network with just the click of a button. Users need only find a video they want to watch and click the TV icon to have videos streamed to their Google TV devices. The app allows them to control the entire playback experience, including pause, scroll, and skipping to the next video.
The functionality is similar to Apple’s AirPlay, which is built into iOS devices like the iPad and Apple TV. That technology has proven incredibly popular with app makers who wish to provide the best of both worlds — a lean-back experience on the TV while also having touch screen-enabled navigation.
One of the big knocks against connected TVs and other video-enabled devices is that they are not smart or intuitive at all — and in fact, navigation problems cause users to watch streaming video much less than the typical TV viewing time. By separating the search and navigation from the actual TV, Google and others are seeking to solve this issue, by allowing users to do the hard work of finding what they want to watch on smart, touch-enabled screens, without having to navigate through all sorts of poorly designed foolishness on the TV.
Ironically enough, Google-owned YouTube has created an iOS app that allows users to to control certain devices this way — like, for instance the recently released PlayStation 3 YouTube app. But similar functionality was missing from the Android version.
I expect YouTube to do more of these types of integrations, extending second-screen control and navigation with a number of other devices and manufacturers. And hopefully, that will lead to more usage on the whole. Frankly, I’d like to see more video app makers — the Netflixes and the Hulus and the Amazons and the like — to do the same.