The first day of Google’s I/O 2012 event was nearly all about Android, so it’s fitting that the mobile YouTube app is getting improvements too. A revamped interface helps turn smartphones running YouTube into portable television-like devices that can pre-load some content to reduce video load times. And that “little TV” will eventually hook up to your larger set at home: Google says it’s working on better ways to do that too.
With the update, YouTube channels and subscriptions appear on the left side of a mobile device screen, highlighting the content you’re most likely interested in. You can still search for videos or catch the hottest movie short of the day, but for those that follow certain channels or video producers, this makes it easier to stay in tune.
Also included in the updated version of YouTube is a method to pre-load videos from your Subscriptions or Watch Later list into cache memory. You can’t watch them offline — Google says you’ll still need a connection to view the content — however, this should eliminate much of that spinning circle when the video file loads. Since a good portion of the video is local, your connection can grab any remaining parts of the video while you watch.
This is all good news for Android users who are YouTube addicts, but there’s a somewhat expected downside as well: The updated YouTube features are for Android 4.0 devices or better. That means unless you have a Google Nexus S or Galaxy Nexus phone — or one of the other handsets that have recently seen the Android 4.0 upgrade — you’re still stuck with that spinning circle on a slow connection. Don’t turn that dial though: Google says it will bring these features to older Android versions in the coming months.