It is not often a third-party developer gets to beat Google at its own game. And yet, the official YouTube video app contains some glaring annoyances that just cry out to be fixed. Despite its unfortunate name, Viral Floating YouTube Popup is a high-quality player that fixes all of those flaws, and then some. I hate popups (who likes them?) and I don’t really like viral videos either, but I’m glad that didn’t stop me from checking out what turned out to be one of the very best YouTube apps out there today.
Plays Videos In The Background, Rotates Like It Should
First things first: Viral doesn’t stop the audio when you switch off the screen, so you can finally listen to music from YouTube. Just as important, you can make Viral rotate the screen to landscape even if your global rotation setting is off! This used to be a default feature for YouTube, until someone decided to “integrate” it with the system-wide screen rotation setting. This makes no sense: Yes, I don’t want my screen to usually rotate, but when I watch a video and flip the device horizontally, I obviously want it to go full-screen and horizontal. This works just fine in Viral, and even if you don’t use any other Viral features, you should get the app just for this.
Of course, that’s not all Viral does. For one thing, it’s very customizable – you can change anything from the color scheme to that aforementioned rotation setting (in case you actually enjoy YouTube’s default behavior). Plus, as you may have gathered from the name, the app also comes with a little “pop up” player – an overlay you can place over any other window to keep watching your video as you reply to email or browse the Web.
A Quick Tour
The first thing you’ll see when you launch Viral is a list of possible video feeds, followed by video cards:
When I say you can customize everything, that includes even the appearance of the video cards:
These are just two possible color themes for the video cards, but you can also change the thumbnail size, for example. And yes, I’m very much into using YouTube to learn DIY skills — specifically, there are some great woodworking resources I learned lots from.
After Logging In
Assuming you’re an avid YouTube watcher, you probably have a list of subscriptions, as well as a Watch Later playlist with a bunch of videos you’ve been saving for a rainy day Once you log in, your navigation sidebar would look like this:
The left screenshot shows the default, and the right shows a custom color I picked.
Here’s what the Watch Later and Subscriptions screens look like:
To the left you can see me swiping away one of the cards from Watch Later – this is a quick and easy way to remove the video from the list, and it synchronizes with the actual list on YouTube. One note is that while the
And here’s a quick look at the horizontal, full-screen player:
It’s worth noting that you can dial in an exact video resolution – better than YouTube’s default “HD” toggle, which is hidden away behind a Settings icon.
Of course, when you stop touching the screen for a moment, all of these controls disappear. Even when they’re off, you can interact with the video by sliding your finger horizontally or vertically on the screen:
Here you can see what happens when sliding horizontally – it basically lets you seek the video, skipping either forward or backward. Playback continues as you slide your finger. Sliding up or down lets you change the brightness (left half of the screen) or the volume (right half of the screen), and is very convenient to use once you realize it’s there.
The Floating and Background Players
So Viral makes the in-app viewing experience better, and also keeps on playing the video when the screen is off. But you also get two other modes: The popup, and the notification bar player. Let’s check out the popup first:
This is the popup player running on top of Chrome. To the left you can see the default view, and to the right you can see all of the controls. You can resize the video, drag it around, pause it, and do basically anything you want. I must admit I don’t see the appeal of watching a video like this, but the feature is there, and it’s robust. Mainly useful for tablets.
Next up, the notification bar player:
You can see the notification in two states here – collapsed (left) and expanded (right). That thumbnail is static (a frozen image), so you’re basically listening to the video rather than watching it. This is perfect for listening to music videos or lectures while doing other things on your device, and you can pause playback right from the notification.
Finally, the built-in Search feature merits a mention for its granularity:
You can search for a video, and then slice and dice the results by length, resolution, upload date, and more. Very accurate, and my only usability gripe is how the filter bar requires you to horizontally scroll.
Since I mentioned how customizable Viral is, let’s take a quick look at a few of its Settings screens:
To the left you can see some of the player control settings, including the option to start the pop-up player when you shake your device. To the right are some pretty, pretty colors: You can change the colors and opacity for just about any element in the app, right down to the video screen’s progress buffer and seek bar. You can even export themes. only there doesn’t seem to be a way to import themes other people made – an odd omission.
Next up, picking your default resolution:
To the left is the main settings screen, and to the right you can see how simple it is to specify a default resolution for the videos.
Pay This Developer
All throughout the review, I’ve used Viral’s free version – and when I finished evaluating it, I went ahead and bought the paid version, because it is simply worth it. It’s not just a matter of getting rid of the banner ads, but also simply supporting the developer and voting with your wallet for high-quality, customizable apps that let you make the best out of YouTube’s wide selection of videos and your mobile viewing time. Go ahead, try Viral out today – you won’t go back to the default YouTube player.
Image Credits: jm3 on Flickr Via Flickr