YouTube apps seem a bit unnecessary, especially when it’s pretty easy to just go to the website and navigate around their pretty decent interface. But what if this kind of apps actually brought some incentives, such as simpler browsing and a better viewing experience that resembles watching a TV channel?
We agree that there’s very little a YouTube app can do to make it necessary and more convenient to use than the website. We found an app called MiniTube that seems promising, but is it up for the task? We’re reviewing it today, so let’s find out!
I get it, using an extra desktop app for viewing YouTube sounds limiting and more of a hassle than it is convenient. But there is a niche for this type of apps out there, and if they can actually get to a point where they are more suitable and faster to use than the website, they just might justify their existence.
MiniTube knows this and they found a way to differentiate itself from just being an app that mimics the YouTube website. In fact, MiniTube simplifies the viewing experience and provides a platform for making video playlisting and watching easier. Let’s get into it.
MiniTube’s interface is pretty clean, and it does a good job at simplifying the YouTube experience by removing unnecessary menus, buttons and comments, to bring you a simple experience that’s a breeze to navigate through. I can imagine MiniTube being great for setting playlists at a party or setting up in a projector.
In the top navigation bar, there are playback and volume controls always accessible, as well as a time bar and a search field. In the status bar on the bottom, there are a couple buttons for switching out resolution and displaying information on the selected videos. The rest of the space is dedicated for viewing videos and browsing playlists or categories.
How It Works
The navigation is broken into three sections: Search, Browse and Subscriptions. The search section provides a clean and fast interface for searching keywords or accessing specific channels. The search is pretty smart and it does a great job at giving you surprisingly precise and useful predictions as you type. This is especially true for directly accessing channels, which is something that YouTube’s search doesn’t really succeed at.
On the other hand, “Browse” provides easy navigation between different categories of videos such as Most Popular, Top Rated or Comedy. There are about 20 different categories and they can be sorted based on location. Subscriptions is the last of the navigation menus, and it’s where you can quickly access the channels that you have previously “starred”.
Keyboard shortcuts for pretty much any task make it easy to navigate around your playlists and throughout the app. There are options for directly sharing videos, copying their links, opening them in the browser, receiving notifications on new videos, and of course, using the app in full screen, which really makes the MiniTube experience shine.
When you choose a video for playback, the view will change to acommodate the playing video in the majority of the screen, while keeping a small sidebar where the related videos are listed and queued. The content of this list of videos will depend on how you chose the current video: if you found it through a channel, the next video from that channel will be queued, and if you found it through a keyword search, then the next related video will be in the list.
This generated playlist can be tweaked easily. You can sort upcoming videos by date, relevance or popularity, as well as configure what videos will be chosen by parameters such as the date they were added, the resolution, date or duration. Speaking of resolution, a cool thing that the app can do is force YouTube to play all videos at a certain configurable resolution, so if your internet connection is acting up, you can easily lower the maximum allowed resolution to something less demanding like 360p.
I get that MiniTube’s whole gimmick hinges on being a lightweight YouTube app, but there are a few missing features that keep it from being the perfect YouTube companion. First off, there is no way to link your Google account with MiniTube, so there’s no way to import your subscriptions or mark videos as seen when they are watched in the app. If you want to keep up with any channels through MiniTube, you’re going to have to “star” each channel, one by one through the app.
The implemented navigation gets the job done, but it could use some improvements to make it more fluid and smart. Playlisting, while much better than YouTube’s, could be more dynamic and work better for searching and adding videos while the current one is still playing. Making a smart playlist out of every related video is very cool, but it’d be nice if this could also work along with search or channels without interrupting what’s currently playing.
When I brought up MiniTube for a review, I was pretty skeptical about reviewing a YouTube app. Now that I’ve spent some time with it, I have to say I’m impressed and I can see myself using this app in the future instead of YouTube’s website, especially for quickly setting up playlists while I’m doing other things in the background or perhaps for hosting YouTube parties.
The simple, streamlined interface makes it very easy and quick to navigate around videos, and it’s quite clean and friendly. Not that YouTube’s website isn’t, but Minitube makes the whole viewing experience feel more at home with the Mac. At $9.99, it isn’t easy to justify paying for this kind of app, but if you are a YouTube fiend like myself, I think you’ll appreciate the commodities that it presents.