The intro screen for YouTube Mobile says it all:
YouTube Mobile is a data intensive application. We highly recommend that you upgrade to an unlimited data plan with your mobile service provider to avoid additional charges.
YouTube Mobile is ready, but not for prime time.
This week YouTube announced a welcomed improvement to its existing mobile video offerings, unveiling a new service at m.youtube.com that will carry most of YouTube’s catalog of millions of videos.
YouTube Mobile also will have a full feature set, including the ability to log in to your account with your library and preferences intact and community features such as commenting and ratings. You can also upload videos from your phone as long as it supports email/MMS; they will appear at both m.youtube.com and youtube.com. You will need to create a mobile profile via youtube.com/mobile.
YouTube has made a limited number of videos available for mobile viewing since 2006, but until now only the iPhone and Helio offered the full mobile YouTube experience. Now YouTube fanatics can watch millions of videos that are currently on the main site — and the best part, they’re ad free.
YouTube Mobile, however, is not nirvana. The mobile site is accessible only to handsets that are capable of streaming video and run on faster 3G networks. According to YouTube owner Google, that’s about 100 million devices worldwide of the more than three billion cell phones in use.
And then there is the limited data plan rub. Many cell phones using 3G networks capable of showing YouTube videos are overseas and run by default on limited data plans. YouTube Mobile is available and localized for the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand, Germany, and Russia. Without unlimited data plans, watching YouTube videos on a cell phone could be a very expensive activity.
Also missing is integration with the rest of the Web. Many people watch YouTube away from the YouTube site; in other words, they watch embedded YouTube clips on other Web sites and blogs. If you click on an embedded YouTube video via a cell phone, you are directed to the non-mobile version.
But these shortcomings will certainly be addressed, and many will go away, once more powerful phones are made available that support Flash Lite 3 (such as the Nokia N95) and therefore can play back regular YouTube videos anywhere on the Web. A Java version is being tested on some newer Sony Ericsson and Nokia models.
“It’s basically the full YouTube experience you can get on the desktop — on the phone,” said Dwipal Desia, YouTube’s mobile product manager. “We expect it to get fairly popular from our past experiences.”