YouTube for Android TV is in the process of receiving a fairly substantial makeover, marking one of the first major changes the Android TV version has seen for some time. The update seems to have started rolling out late on June 29 (Google Play listing states it was updated on June 28), and so there is a chance that some users will still have not seen the updated version arrive just yet. However, it is on the way, and it is very different to the way it looked before.
First off, the most obvious difference is that YouTube for Android TV now employs the dark mode that has recently become available on other platform versions of the app. While YouTube for Android TV was a little dark to begin with, things are now a lot darker. Likewise, there is no escaping that this design draws on what Google and the Android TV team are trying to bring to the platform with Android O. With the difference being that an Android TV device does not need to be running Android O to take advantage of these changes. As the updated version is rolling out on Android Nougat devices like the NVIDIA SHIELD, as well as Android Marshmallow devices like the LeEco Super4 X65. In either case, the focus here is on the use of ‘channels.’ This goes for individual channels, as well as the categories in general. So now the categories all appear in horizontal tab form, which does result in a quicker ability to jump from one category channel to the next. Once on a category, it is now easier to see a wider amount of content, compared to what was available in-view when using the old format. A prime example being the “Originals” channel which showcases much of the YouTube Original content that is available to YouTube Red subscribers. Instead of scrolling half way down the screen and then side-scrolling to view the different titles, more content now appears in-view, and with a more TV-optimized presentation.
The same can be said for channels that you are subscribed to. Now once you click on a channel page, content is better presented, more content is visible, and the page feels much more like an actual ‘channel’.
Some other aspects worth touching on, search now clearly places a focus on voice search. While this was the case with the older format, it does look as though Google and the Android Team are making a greater push to get people to use the voice feature. Especially as there is no clear indication (like the keyboard icon which was visible before) that you can type search.
One feature that many will probably want to make use of, is that it is now very easy to disable auto-play. Which can be done by heading to the settings menu. Unfortunately, for those that have multiple Google accounts (or households where multiple people use the same Android TV device), there is no easy way to switch between user accounts. Although, you can very quickly sign-out and sign-in to another account. Either through the settings or hitting the user profile tab at the top right corner of the screen.
Overall, the functionality of the new YouTube for Android TV app has been greatly improved. It does now feel much more user-friendly and certainly more TV-like. However, it will take some getting used to, and at first some users will probably not quite like the changes. In some respects, the interface feels more compact than it did before (and more compact than it actually is), and therefore seems to require a little more concentration. Interestingly, this interface will actually feel familiar to those who have a Samsung TV, as it looks very similar to what would be considered a dated Samsung YouTube app.