On March 13, popular alternative YouTube client Vanced announced that it would be shutting down its service in the near future. Most people probably know Vanced as a way to get around YouTube ads, but there’s more to it: the Android app allows a lot of features that YouTube can practically integrate into its own app without taking the creator’s earnings or hurting their bottom line. Here are the things we most like to see in the official YouTube app.
darker darker mode
Leave: YouTube dark mode. right: Vanced dark mode.
YouTube’s dark mode is better than its light mode for browsing videos even after a long time of sleep, but as with many Google apps, the theme is primarily dark gray. Vanced, on the other hand, offers an “AMOLED dark mode”, which is odd phone talk of a theme that includes a lot of true blacks – and thus looks nicer (and darker) on OLED screens. Of all the Vanced features that YouTube can offer, this one is definitely the simplest.
Full Picture in Picture (without Premium)
If you charge $12 per month for YouTube Premium, you get a number of perks. Mainly, you no longer see ads in videos, the ad revenue generated by your eyes is replaced by real revenue from your wallet. Vanced manages to get through all of that, but free, ad-free content is too tough to replicate in the official YouTube experience — products usually have to make money to survive. But some of the simpler features that Vanced sneaks from behind the Premium Firewall are much smaller orders.
One such feature: Picture-in-picture video playback. With YouTube Premium, you can navigate away from the YouTube app while playing any video, and the video will shrink into a small floating window over whatever you’re doing. If you’re a free user, many videos – music in particular – only stop by. This was not the case with Vanced. The app supports full PiP regardless of your Premium status. It should be the official app too – seems like a weird feature to lock behind a subscription.
Bring back what you don’t like
YouTube removed hate from public view late last year — ostensibly in an effort to promote a more positive social experience by discouraging behavior such as coordinated hate campaigns. Creators are still particularly viewable on dislike counts, but losing a way to judge video quality at a glance isn’t right for many YouTubers. Vanced made it his business to recount hate. This method is questionable at best – it uses an API that allegedly uses “archived data” and “inductive extension user behavior” to approximate the hate count – but the goal is impressive. Bring back the public hate, YouTube. We miss them.
Play in the background (without Premium)
Listening to videos with the screen off (or while using other apps in full screen) is an exclusive Premium feature. This is to push people who use YouTube Music towards YouTube Music, but it’s annoying nonetheless. Vanced bypasses this limitation, allowing any video to be played in the background by any user. It would be great to see YouTube restarting in the background to ad-supported accounts – constant ads are sure enough incentive to pay for Premium.
Better resolution settings
Leave: YouTube quality settings. right: Vanced’s quality settings.
Resolution settings suck in the official YouTube app. You can choose between Auto, Higher Image Quality, and Data Saver for your default setting, and even choose different settings when you’re on Wi-Fi versus mobile data. But “higher image quality” usually means 1080p, even when videos are available in a higher resolution. To watch in 1440p or 4K, you have to manually set the resolution for each video you watch. It’s somewhat infuriating.
Vanced offers more in-depth settings that allow you to choose your preferred resolution across all videos, even going so far as to allow users to stream video at a higher resolution than their phones can display. This last part is questionably useful, but I wish I didn’t have to tell YouTube manually All The time when I want to use the full resolution of the S22 Ultra.
Swipe controls for brightness and volume
That’s it fanseed. The app has a setting that lets you swipe up or down while playing a full screen video to adjust your brightness or volume without interrupting what you’re watching – the left side controls the brightness, the right side controls the volume. There are even options to adjust the sensitivity of the feature to prevent unintended input. It’s a really useful feature, and we’d love to see it in the official YouTube app.
Aside from offering completely free content, although it may be nice as it is known to individual users, Vanced does so much right in that YouTube is currently doing the wrong thing (or at least it could do better). It addresses a number of features of the official YouTube app that are not popular globally. With Vanced closed, YouTube won’t have one thing to worry about – but as long as it continues to ignore the wishes of its users, there will always be alternatives to fill in the gaps. With any luck, YouTube has taken this time to think about why these alternatives exist in the first place and make plans to adapt accordingly.
Maybe not, but we can dream.
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