It’s been known for a while now that Apple has removed Google Maps from iOS 6, Apple’s mobile operating system for iPhones, iPads, and iPods. This hurt users who frequently used the Maps application for public transit, as the new app is said to launch without the ability to route via public transit.
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.
Most people will agree that the mobile web view of YouTube in Safari has been superior since the introduction of HTML5 video on Google’s popular video host. While playback of individual videos is definitely better, I disagree that the experience overall is better. For one, the YouTube app fits seamlessly into iOS, matching the styling and UI components that have been used since the iPhone launched. The YouTube mobile view is kludgy to browse and navigate, obviously lacking the iOS-native tab navigation at the bottom of the window. For browsing various videos and channels, I prefer the YouTube native app for this reason.
Google is free to build their own application to replace the app Apple had been building and maintaining – not that Apple had done much with YouTube.app since the launch. However, this does present a few cases where the user loses.
Apple does not currently provide a way for an app to be the default handler for URLs, e-mail, music, or other destinations. This means any link sent in an e-mail will load into Safari. For watching the video, this is probably just fine – a lot of people seem to prefer the mobile view for watching videos as it doesn’t require you to switch contexts to a new app. The downside to this comes when the user wants to take action on this video – say to save it as a favorite or to add it to a YouTube playlist. The user either needs to log in to perform this action, or already be logged in. If a user tapped a link that launched Mobile Safari, this is probably okay; but for apps that have a built-in browser (like Tweetbot), the user doesn’t have access to the same cookies, meaning for each app utilizing the UIWebView, the user has to log in again as cookies are not shared between Safari and UIWebView.
Apple’s war with Google has only hurt one party – the user. Google is still able to create native apps and drive users to their website via mobile web views. Apple still sells their devices with new features. Users lose both features and integration with the loss of the transit navigation and native YouTube app, having to be at the mercy of Google’s iOS development teams. Those teams have been exceptionally slow on releasing iOS versions of Android apps – the Google Drive app launched well over a month after the service, and failed to meet expectations, providing a read-only access to your files. The iOS native GMail account was poorly launched and poorly received, as it is basically a UIWebView wrapper for a mobile view. Google’s social Google+ app also proved to be a limited set of functionality in a buggy app, and it took Google nearly a year to launch an iPad-specific version.
I know Google can build a proper YouTube application for iOS – I just have my doubts about how well they’ll do it and how long it’ll take to go to release.