Google has pulled the YouTube application out of Android OS and created a stand-alone version of it. The new version (2.0.26) includes a number of updates to the application.
Google says that the application has a brand new user interface. When the app is first launched, users see a long list of videos on the home page. At the top, users can turn on their own video camera, or perform a search. Since Android supports Voice Actions, this is a really quick way to find and watch videos if you know what you're looking for.
The new YouTube also allows for in-page playback, which means users can read comments while videos are playing. This was a long-requested feature for YouTube mobile. The new app also has a personalized homescreen video feed and new player controls. Last, when users rotate their phone, the player will also rotate and fill the full screen for edge-to-edge playback.
The new YouTube application's major drawback, however, is that it requires devices with Android 2.2 and up. Right now, that means only about 40% of Android handset users qualify to download and install the application.
Beyond the specifics of the update itself, however, this represents another step in a major shift for Google and Android.
This is the second time that a major part of the Android system has been updated outside of a full operating system update (to Android 2.1 Eclair, Android 2.2 Froyo, etc.). Gmail was the first core app to be updated outside of a major system-wide version change.
This means as Google moves forward in developing new features for Android's core systems, users won't have to wait for major OS updates to get them. They'll be able to download the updated application by itself, instead, as demonstrated by the Gail and YouTube apps.
The new YouTube application is a free download from the Android Market.