Use YouTube for music on your iPhone

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My 13-year-old’s dramatic eye-rolling made me a better iPhone user.

I recently discovered that I can use YouTube for listening to music on my phone without it taking over what’s happening on my screen. Here’s what I mean.

My daughter was describing a song to me, but couldn’t quite recall the title or artist. As a TECH GOD I grabbed my iPhone and launched Apple Music. “Just use YouTube,” she said with the disdain typically reserved for someone who had just kicked your dog.

I would, but YouTube commandeers the iPhone. If you’re using the official app, any video that’s playing stops as soon as you navigate away. The same goes for YouTube.com in mobile Safari. Unless you do the following:

  1. Go to YouTube.com in mobile Safari.
  2. Find the video you want to listen to and get it playing.
  3. Hit your iPhone’s Home button to navigate away from Safari.
  4. The music stops. Don’t panic! Just swipe up to reveal the Control Center (below)
  5. Hit the play button.

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That’s it! Hit the Home button one more time to dismiss the Control Center and use your iPhone however you like while the YouTube video plays in the background. I had no idea this was possible.

Hence the eye-rolling.

Quick how-to: AirPlay from YouTube for iPhone

Google has released YouTube for iPhone and iPad version 1.1 with true AirPlay, iPhone 5 support and more. In this quick tutorial, I’ll explain how to use AirPlay with your Apple TV and YouTube for iOS.

Install the App

Install the free YouTube app for iOS. It’s compatible with the iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, and 5, plus the iPod touch (3rd, 4th and 5th generation) and the iPad. It needs iOS 5.0 or later and, as I said, is optimized for iPhone 5.

Enable AirPlay

Earlier versions of YouTube for iOS were restricted to AirPlay mirroring. This version offers proper AirPlay and it’s great. Setup is super simple. First, ensure that your iOS device and Apple TV are on the same Wi-Fi network. Then follow these steps:

  1. Find a video you’d like to watch.
  2. Tap the AirPlay icon
  3. A slip appears. Tap your Apple TV to select it.

That’s it! Your video is pushed to your Apple TV. Enjoy this update and start watching YouTube videos on your big screen.

Thanks for reading. You’ll find more quickie how-to’s here.

The three Safari extensions I love

Since Apple released the Safari Extensions Gallery, we’ve been compiling interesting examples at TUAW. There are many gems in the list, but these are the three that I use daily.

A Cleaner YouTube

This extension removes the visual clutter from YouTube. When you first visit YouTube with the extension enabled, you’re presented with a search box on a white field. That’s it. Enter your criteria and the box is replaced with an orderly list of results. Finally, select one and it’s presented all by itself. The experience is significantly less distracting, and I’ve pretty much had it enabled since I found it last month.

Caveats

Some of YouTube’s functionality is reduced with A Cleaner YouTube enabled. Specifically, YouTube’s recommendations, popular videos and access to the embed code. You can restore any of those features by briefly disabling the extension, but frankly I don’t miss them.

Naked Twitter

Much like A Cleaner YouTube, Naked Twitter’s purpose is to eliminate visual clutter. Once enabled, it removes the trending list, followers, suggestions and anything else that isn’t the actual stream of tweets. Four icons line the top of the page: profile, messages, replies and sign out. Personally, I never use anything beyond those functions, so they’re all I need.

Caveats

As with A Cleaner YouTube, some functionality is  lost. Those who enjoy reading the list of trending topics, for example, will miss it.

Instapaper Beyond [1. Full disclosure: Brett Terpstra, the extensions’s author, is a colleague and a friend.]

I use Instapaper daily.  Instapaper Beyond makes it even more useful by assigning a keyboard shortcut to nearly any action you’d want to perform while using Instapaper in Safari. For example, hit “S” to star or unstar an article, “s” to jump to the next starred article, “m” to move selected articles to a new folder and “u” to bring up all unread articles. It’s immensely useful and time-saving.

Caveats

You must be comfortable with abandoning the mouse. Also, hunt-and-peck typists will find it frustrating. Enjoy.

Each of these deserves your attention, especially if you prefer tidy efficiency.

YouTube mobile

YouTube recently updated its mobile site to be even friendlier towards iPhones and other mobile devices. In fact, it’s better than the full browser experience. After playing with it for a few days, I’ve found some good and bad. Here’s what I like, what I don’t how it compares to Apple’s YouTube app.

The first time visit m.youtube.com from an iPhone, you’re prompted to add a button to your home screen. The resulting icon looks great, even on a retina display.

Tapping a video brings up its information, is which organized differently that Apple’s. You can rate the video, mark it as a favorite, add it to a playlist (or create a new one) or share it via email. You can also toggle high quality on and off and show/hide the clip’s details. Finally, related videos and user comments are listed below the description.

It’s all presented on a single layout, which I like. Apple’s app spreads this information across two screens; sharing, favorites and playlists are on one screen while the description, comments and related clips are on another. I realize that complaining because I have to touch my expensive cell phone’s sleek surface twice instead of once is what some call a first world problem and others call obnoxious, but there it is. Having everything on one screen is convenient and YouTube has presented it in a tidy, usable way.

I love YouTube’s large, no-nonsense icons for Home, Browse, Favorites, Playlists, Subscriptions, My Videos and Settings. It’s clear what each is for and badges indicate how many favorites you’ve collected and videos you’ve published. Yes, they’re a whole extra tap away when compared to Apple’s placement, but I’ll buck up and deal with the hardship.

You may have noticed the “HQ” button. It’s easily toggled on and off, and provides a noticeable difference in video quality. YouTube claims that they’ve achieved quality better than some native apps, but I didn’t notice a huge difference between the web app and Apple’s iPhone app.

It’s a nice mobile solution that demonstrates YouTube’s commitment to the platform. As I said, it looks much better than the full browser version of YouTube, and is easily on par with Apple’s app.