Review: YouTube Downloader
Two years after Google effectively abandoned development of its own 'official' YouTube client for Symbian, we have a third party solution that finally offers more. More quality, more speed and - unbelievably - even video downloading, something that's fiddly and geeky to arrange even on desktop computers. YouTube Downloader's name gives the game away, of course, with the focus very much being on getting MP4 content down into your memory card - even at the expense of a consistent, pleasant or user-friendly interface. But don't let my niggles get in the way of you grabbing this for yourself - it's completely free and well worth installing on any Symbian^3-powered smartphone.
Version Reviewed: 1.00
The official YouTube client from Google, written in C++, is showing its age. Designed for the QVGA-screened S60 3rd Edition phones, it has only really had a small facelift for touch and the quality of the video streams is much the same - if not QVGA then not much better. Plus, you're restricted to just streaming videos - there's no way to access YouTube content when away from fast connectivity. And add to all that Google who, now that Android is taking off, are showing zero interest in updating any of their apps for Symbian. Understandably, but also sadly.
At which point I welcome a new entrant into the field, a tool that claims to both play and download YouTube content right up to full 720p (and even 1080p in some cases) resolution*. YouTube Downloader is written in Qt and runs on all the new Symbian^3 smartphones from Nokia.
The application starts well, with a scrolling list of 'Featured' videos and similar ones for 'Top Rated' and 'Most viewed', as you'd expect from a YouTube client. The Qt APIs mean that the interface is fluid and fast, with thumbnails appearing as fast as on Google's own YouTube client on Android. Tapping on a video brings up a nice split-screen view with video frame, scrolling description frame, buttons for '360p' and '720p' (if available*) direct download, plus an automated advert, this last presumably how the application is funded.
All of which sounds super, but it's here that the experience and overall concept of the application starts to become seriously disjointed. Being a geek, a disjointed interface isn't a showstopper, especially as I can still see a use for YouTube Downloader, but it's going to confuse the heck out of anyone new to videos, to files and folders.
For starters, tapping on the video frame actually starts up Web and then goes to the YouTube mobile site - if a user wanted this then they'd just go to m.youtube.com in the first place.
Tapping on the 'MP4 360p' button brings up a standard Web 'Download' dialog, offering to save the highlighted YouTube video as an MP4. Tap on 'OK' and both downloading and - interestingly - playback starts, using the built-in Symbian^3 video player. As '360p' implies, this is the vertical resolution of the video and is a perfect fit for the nHD resolution of the Symbian^3 display in landscape mode, which means that playback quality is really rather excellent. You're basically watching the video as it downloads and there's enough horsepower in the new phones to do this with ease.
You finish watching and tap on 'Close'. And you're dumped back to the Symbian application menu. There's such a close tie-in with Web and its downloader, and with the video player, that it's almost inevitable that you'll keep tapping on soft key options for one while you're actually operating the other. And generally getting confused.
But let's look on the bright side - you now have your chosen video not only watched (and enjoyed) but also downloaded to your phone, for later watching while offline or travelling. But where is it? There's no playback interface in YouTube Downloader. Time to start Symbian's File manager and go hunting. Each video gets given, essentially, the same filename, videoplayback.mp4, in F:\Video clips, and it's at this point you start to realise that there's a fair degree of manual involvement in the whole downloading process. In this case, renaming each file as it's downloaded to a sensible and appropriate name (still with .mp4 extension, of course).
A further complication comes if you end up cancelling or interrupting a download, since it then gets taken over by Web next time you start the latter - and this saves its downloads to a different folder, in my case E:\Downloads. Which then gives you two different folders to keep track of and to pluck files from for renaming. Elegant, this isn't.
Maybe I'm being a little harsh - this is very obviously a version 1.0 product and I'm sure some of the rough edges can be smoother. For example, it also only works in portrait mode, even though you'll be watching its videos in landscape. And starting to enter text into the Search dialog is tricky to start, you have to tap in exactly the right place or nothing happens.
With fixes for all the above and niceties like a download monitoring page and - shock, horror - even an About screen, YouTube Downloader will be elevated from its current status as geeky tool to being an essential application for almost everyone. But in the absence of an official Google YouTube client that plays in high-ish quality on today's nHD displays, this is already my preferred way to get to YouTube content on the Nokia N8.
Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 29 March 2011
* Note that the 720p resolution file you'll be downloading won't be the same high quality as the original uploaded by its creator. As ever, YouTube does some serious 'optimisation' at its end to reduce download sizes. Not usually a problem, especially when viewing on a phone screen, but worth bearing in mind if you watch a downloaded file later on, on your desktop.
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at