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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

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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:

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When I say you can customize everything, that includes even the appearance of the video cards:

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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 Learn Basic DIY Skills Online With YouTube Learn Basic DIY Skills Online With YouTube While DIY falls in and out of fashion depending on the state of the economy, individual styles, and the availability of professionals and materials, there will always be someone, somewhere keen to learn basic DIY... Read More — specifically, there are some great woodworking resources Learn To Build Your Own Furniture With These Impressive Carpentry & Woodworking Resources Learn To Build Your Own Furniture With These Impressive Carpentry & Woodworking Resources Few things are as satisfying and relaxing as making something new with your own hands. Programming comes close, at least for me (and I've recently offered some tips on learning to code), but it's still... Read More 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

Settings Galore

Since I mentioned how customizable Viral is, let’s take a quick look at a few of its Settings screens:

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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:

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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

  1. michael lowe
    February 20, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Step 1: download and install amazon underground app from google play store or itunes

    Step2: Login to your amazon account

    Step 3: Search for and install the Firetube app

    Step 4: Hey Presto! you can now play youtube videos in the background! I have not tried this on marshmallow but certainly works on a rooted phone with Lollipop, i believe it also works on unrooted phones but I couldnt say for sure as my phone was already rooted when I used this workaround! I have not yet figured out how to import youtube playlists as I dont know whether I am supposed to use my username or channel ID (which either of I dont know anyway) or whether I am supposed to enter each individual playlist from each individual channel or user?
    good luck to anyone who wants to have a dog and find out how to do this?I'd value feedback thanks ;-)

    • michael lowe
      February 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      sorry I meant dig not dog lol!

  2. João Lourenço
    September 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Great article. However, since you can't play videos in the background anymore I'm going to suggest an app that allows you to turn off the screen while the youtube stock app keeps playing. Since I usually play youtube playlists or dj sets with my headphones, it works great. It won't let you switch apps, though...

    It's called "Black Screen of Life". Try searching for it on YouTube (when you search it in google play it doesn't show up unless you put apostrophes).

  3. jj
    February 15, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    get a Samsung s4 then you can turn the screen off or use any other app they have multi window otherwise what your phone interview xposed framework with multi window

  4. Michael
    February 15, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Erez. This was a very good article. However, I just went to the Playstore to download it and discovered that the developer had been warned that they were in violation of YouTube policy by allowing YouTube videos to play in the background. This is unfortunate - for both YouTube as well as the developer as this was the main reason I wanted the app.The other features may be nice to have assuming I hhappen upon a need for them. I deliberately try to avoid using YouTube specifically because they have made it so that they force you to have their screen up to hear a video. Needless to say my deliberate avoidance of YouTube will continue. If you know of another app that still does give this functionality please let me know here.

    When will Google and others realize that deliberately trying to force people to bend to their will is counterproductive and only makes them like Apple?

    • M C
      April 17, 2015 at 1:29 am

      Try to find an older apk, I'm still using an older build from last summer with no problems.

  5. Gi
    April 4, 2014 at 8:11 am

    They are based in Egypt, Cairo. Not sure that should make a difference. The developer website is arabic and english. there's a Qu'arran app as well. I'm look for American based app. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  6. Haley Q
    January 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Now I can listen to my favourite artists on youtube without watching the video. (:

  7. M B
    January 3, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Too complicated control. Even pausing the video is complicated.

    Religion should be removed from the app. If developers like Islam, they should create a separate app for this like Viral Islamic. In the standard app there should be no religion.

    Uninstalled.

    • Erez Z
      January 3, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      Heya,

      Pausing is just a single tap... But what's more interesting to me is where did you see anything about religion? I went over the entire app for this review and nothing jumped at me...

    • Tom W
      January 4, 2014 at 1:24 am

      @Erez The first image under the "A Quick Tour" heading shows "Islamic" as the first option. I assumed that was a custom category.

    • Tom W
      January 4, 2014 at 1:29 am

      This app would be perfect for me because it addresses some of the issues I have with the Youtube app, but I have occasionally found some videos mission from my Subscriptions list, and I don't think the Youtube API will fair any better. At the moment, I'm using the RSS feed of my Subscriptions, which seems to be a lot more accurate. It also has the advantage that videos that are slow to be added to the feed will still show up as new items in the RSS feed, whereas in the Subscriptions list I can't display only unwatched videos.

    • Erez Z
      January 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      @Tom W: Re Islamic -- I'm not sure that's the case. I figured it was a regional thing actually, because I'm based in Israel, so I was not surprised to see an Islamic category pop up...

  8. Sorinu
    January 2, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    For listening to music from YouTube, PV Star is the best app.

  9. Lee
    January 2, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I didn't know about this app and it always annoyed me that I couldn't read an incoming text without pausing the video. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Erez Z
      January 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Sure thing, Lee! :)

  10. Swaminathan V
    January 2, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks to the author for introducing this app. Definitely going to try this out as the default youtube app has become annoying these days.

    A small rant (sorry): Though I usually buy the paid versions of the apps I like, I don't believe using the free ad-version of the app means we are not paying the developer. I agree it might not be same as directly buying the paid version, but still.

    • Erez Z
      January 3, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      That's partly true. If nobody used ad blockers, and ad networks actually paid well, yes, this would be true. But as it stands, many users use custom ROMs or ad-blocking apps, and the ad networks make it quite difficult to make a living as a developer supported mostly by ads. So... "almost free" perhaps. :)

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