If you have an Android phone, it probably came with a native YouTube app pre-installed.  Mine did.  And using it has been a strangely average experience.  It isn't bad, but it isn't great either.  But now that may be changing.

Specifically, Google has released a standalone YouTube app in the Android Market, and it's updated and improved in almost every way.  If you have Android version 2.2 or up, your YouTube app has been pulled out of the root OS and is now a separate app.  This is important, because it will allow the app to receive its own updates, rather than waiting for updates to the entire OS as was the case previously.  So moving forward, users who are still waiting for the next system upgrade to be pushed out will still be able to have the latest version of the YouTube app.

I downloaded it this morning and played around with it a while, and it's definitely a vast improvement.  Here are just a few of the new features and upgrades:

  • You can view videos in either portrait or landscape view.
  • There are beefed up options for personalization of the home page.
  • The search interface seems much easier—and it supports voice-search as well.
  • You can like videos or comment on them right within the app.  And because of in-page playback, you skim the comments section while the video is playing, just like "real" YouTube.
  • Social integration is prominent, with the ability to "like" any video on your network of choice—Facebook, Twitter, or Buzz.
  • You can shoot video and upload it all from inside the app itself—rather than having to do both steps separately.
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The whole thing is more robust, easier on the eyes, and more useful—everything you want in a software update.

I love my Android phone, and I love YouTube, so everything about this is good news for me.  Everything about this new standalone app seems designed to make the mobile YouTube experience more like the standard YouTube experience, and they've scored high on almost all the changes and additions.