Updated. Don’t expect to find a YouTube app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch if you update it to iOS 6; the company has pulled the app from the latest beta version of its software. This might be a subtle swipe at Google, which Apple is indirectly fighting through Google’s Android partners in the courts. Or it could be nothing more than what Apple has said: It’s contract with to include YouTube in iOS has expired and hasn’t been renegotiated. Frankly, I think it doesn’t matter.
I’ve verified on my own iPhone 4S that beta 4 of iOS does remove the YouTube app. But I’ve also verified that it really doesn’t change anything. Links to YouTube videos open up YouTube’s mobile web app and play just fine. I can see my channel subscriptions in the web app as well as all of the videos I’ve marked to “Watch Later”. Is the experience stellar? No, but it’s not terrible, either. And this gives Google an opportunity to make the YouTube experience better anyway: Apple provided the following statement to AllThingsD:
Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended. Customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.
My colleague, Janko Roettgers has reached out to Google to confirm that statement, but hasn’t received a response yet. The quote makes sense though. Why should Google keep working with Apple to include a default YouTube app at this point? It could create its own — one that’s presumably better the original — and offer an improved YouTube app in the iTunes App Store for free. The money Google earned from having YouTube on Apple devices is definitely a lost cause in this situation, but I don’t think Google will lose that much sleep over it considering its activating a million Android handsets per day and can likely include ads in its own version of YouTube.
If the year was 2007 — or if Apple had a comparable user-generated video service — I’d likely feel otherwise. That was when the iPhone was introduced with a mobile YouTube app and it helped propel YouTube from a desktop to a mobile phenomenon. Fast forward to today and all the people who didn’t know about mobile YouTube five years ago likely do now. Put another way: Google isn’t likely to gain more YouTube exposure by paying to include the app on future iOS devices. It can do that on its own now, with more freedom, and the mobile web app will suffice until a native app arrives.
Update: We received the following statement from a YouTube spokesperson: “We are working with Apple to ensure we have the best possible YouTube experience for iOS users.”