Although YouTube gets its share of controversies as a result of being the world's default destination for user-generated videos on the internet, its sheer ubiquity means that it's a platform that you should know how to use if you want to participate in the cultural shift away from conventional TV and terrestrial radio.
But although the YouTube app for iOS and Android is generally easy to understand, every interface has its quirks, and it's easy to overlook new features when they come out as often as they do here. So let's show you five things that may not just make you a better YouTuber but also reduce your potential frustration level.
Make subscribed content actually show up in your notifications feed
Subscribing to a channel is no longer enough to feature that content in the app (or on the website, for that matter). It will get mixed into your recommended viewing, so you need to take advantage of another feature to actually get a specific channel's videos presented to you: the notification bell.
It shows up next to every Subscribe button on YouTube, but if you don't tap it, then those videos can still be easily lost in the mix. Once you've tapped that bell, that channel's videos will now start to be listed in a special section within the app. Ignore the Home button, ignore the Trending button, and even ignore the Subscriptions button. What you need is in the Inbox section.
The Inbox section is broken into two subsections: a tab with messages from other users, and a tab for your notifications. This second tab is where you will find all the content from channels you have activated their notification bell, in reverse chronology. Just tap the entry to go straight to that video, or tap the three dot-menu next to that entry to see your filtering options.
Now, let's say you want a notification from Android itself that you have a new batch of videos waiting for you (for whom you've activated that bell). Tap your profile picture in the upper right, then Settings, then Notifications, then Scheduled Digest. Select your desired time of day to receive this batch notification, and press the back button in the upper left twice to return to the main YouTube screen.
Reduce low-quality or inaccurate viewing recommendations
The Home and Trending sections may feel like a firehose that's spraying all over the place sometimes, but you can at least improve its aim. When a video shows up in the Home feed tab, and you're not interested, just tap the three-dot menu to the right of the title and select "Not interested." If the video appears to be violating YouTube's rules, this submenu also has a Report option that lets you notify Google.
When you tap Not Interested, the app will display two options: Undo, or Tell Us Why. Letting YouTube know why you're not interested can help them improve their recommendation system, and you get three options: You've already watched it, you don't like it or -- perhaps most important -- you no longer want to see videos from that specific YouTube channel.
Use the cast feature to kick back and watch YouTube on your TV
If you're at home, and you want to relax on the sofa and watch some videos on your TV, you don't have to wrangle the notoriously awkward interfaces that video streaming services provide for it. Instead, you can browse YouTube on your phone -- which is generally faster, thanks to things like voice search and rapid touch-based navigation -- and then "cast" the video to your TV.
For Android, there are several ways to this. If you have a recent "smart TV," it should have a YouTube app built in, in which case you should be able to cast straightaway, as long as your phone and TV are on the same Wi-Fi network.
If you have an older TV that lacks a casting option, you can fill the gap with a Chromecast streaming device that plugs into your TV, though there are other devices that will do it too, like the Roku, Nvidia Shield TV, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The Chromecast uses your phone as a remote control, which you may either love or hate.
If you prefer a dedicated remote, the other devices listed above all come with one. In the case of the game consoles, your "remote" is the gamepad itself, though you can purchase conventional remote controls separately. You can buy them online or at pretty much any big-box store that sells game consoles.
If you want to cast from an iPhone or an iPad, it's best paired with an Apple TV.
To set up your streaming device, you'll need to refer to its documentation and follow the on-screen instructions. Each one works slightly differently. In our experience, Chromecast are among the easiest to get up and running.
Once you've set up your device, open the YouTube app, select the video you want to watch on your TV, then tap the button that's immediately to the left of the three dot menu that's located in the upper right corner. This will open your casting menu.
Tap the device on this list that you want to stream to, and the video should start playing on your TV after a few seconds. You can use the YouTube app's on-screen controls to pause, play and seek, or the remote control that came with your streaming box.
Note that using a VPN on your phone may prevent it from seeing or properly working with streaming devices that are on your Wi-Fi network. So you'll need to pause or disconnect from your VPN to see all of your possible streaming destinations in the casting menu.
Access all of your viewing history to pick up where you left off
Let's say you started watching a YouTube video a few weeks ago, got interrupted, and you were never able to finish viewing it. How do you dig it up again and pick up where you left off? The app will show you the last few videos you watched, but you need to dig a little deeper to see your viewing history further back in time. To get a list of everything you've watched, tap the Library button on the bottom right, then History.
At first, this might not look like much help, since this presents you with a long feed that you have to scroll through to dig up that unfinished video. Fortunately, the History section has its own search function separate from the one that searches all of YouTube. It won't search as you type, but it will find everything that matches your search query.
To go back, just tap Cancel or the back arrow in the upper left.
Watch any movie or show that you've ever bought from Google -- even on an Apple TV
You can rent and buy video content from a variety of services, and Google has its own option in the Google Play Movies & TV store (download for iOS or Android). This store isn't available on all platforms, though, with Apple TV being the most notable exception. But with a workaround via YouTube, you can still watch your flicks and shows any time you want.
Tap Library and then Purchases to see all of your previously purchased content (including rentals, if those haven't expired yet). Unfortunately, this section of the app is a bit rough, because you can't search within it or even sort the list. But since you can access the Library section on the Apple TV version of YouTube, you can watch content purchased from the the Google Play Movies & TV store even though the Apple TV lacks a Google Play Movies & TV app.
In fact, you don't even need the Play Movies & TV app to browse its storefront. In the Purchases section of the YouTube mobile app, just tap the Get Movies button and shop to your heart's content. Also note that the store has a section for free movies, if you're willing to sit through some ad breaks.
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