YouTube is great, but only if you have a consistent data connection and unlimited bandwidth. That’s the norm for city dwellers in rich countries, but not for most people on planet earth.
Which is why Google now offers YouTube Go, a stripped down version of the YouTube Android app that lets you choose your own video quality and even download videos to watch later. It’s perfect for anyone dealing with bandwidth limitations, or even just people looking for a simpler YouTube application than the default.
YouTube Go is out of beta as of this week, but currently only available in India an Indonesia…but there’s a workaround for the US and other countries. Unfortunately, users in other countries can’t download videos without a VPN, but they can still reap the benefits of YouTube Go’s simpler, lightweight interface.
How to Install YouTube Go
If you live in India or Indonesia, you can download YouTube Go from Google Play right now. That was easy, right?
YouTube Go will roll out to other countries eventually, but for now you need a workaround. The simplest method is to download YouTube Go from APK Mirror. You’ll end up with an APK file, which you can install by opening. (Don’t worry, APK Mirror is a trusted, legitimate source for Android applications.)
Whether this works will depend on your security settings. If you know how to sideload apps on Android, you know the drill. On most Android phones you can head to Settings > Security and make sure that “Unknown Sources” is enabled.
On newer phones running Android 8.0 “Oreo” things are a little more complicated: you’ll need to head to Settings > Apps & Notifications, then give permission to your web or file browser to install applications. Check our article on sideloading for more information.
A Stripped Down Interface
When you first launch the app you’ll see a a stream of recommended videos. There’s no Subscriptions, Trending, Activity, or Library button at the bottom of the screen, and no way to access any of these functions. Here’s a comparison, for reference, with YouTube Go on the left and the default YouTube app on the right.
In addition to the missing streams there’s also no button for casting videos to a TV, or uploading your own videos. There’s one new feature: a button for sharing downloaded videos directly with nearby users; this only works with other YouTube Go users, and does not use any mobile bandwidth.
The simplicity of the user interface extends to playing videos: the subscription and like buttons are gone, as is YouTube’s infamous comments section.
Some will see this as a downside, removing core features from the YouTube experience. Others might be glad to have a version of YouTube without comments to leave and like buttons to smash. It’s a chance to focus on what YouTube is really about: videos.
Watching and Downloading Videos in YouTube Go
When you tap on a video, you’ll be asked what quality level you’d like, and whether you’d like to stream or download.
You can also see a quick preview of the video by tapping the thumbnail. This just shows a few frames, which is useful if you want to ensure you’re using your bandwidth on the right thing.
You’ll also see a download button. We tested YouTube Go in the United States, and the download button was greyed out for every video we could find. Routing our traffic through a VPN in India changed this—we couldn’t find any videos where downloading isn’t enabled then.
This means a key selling point of the application—downloading videos to watch offline—isn’t really available to users in the United States, and presumably other western countries. This is disappointing, but is probably more of a legal issue than a technical one. Still, YouTube Go is a nice app for people frustrated by YouTube’s cluttered interface—so give it a go.