How to Watch YouTube Videos on Windows Phone 8.1

Devices running Windows Phone 8.1, like the Lumia 520, have a very checkered history with YouTube. More specifically, they’ve had trouble with YouTube apps. Today, there isn’t an official YouTube app available to devices running Windows Phone, but thankfully there are ways around that.

Microsoft has stepped up to try and provide a decent YouTube app for Windows Phone users. Last summer the company introduced an upgraded YouTube app that included many of the features Windows Phone 8 users had asked for. Unfortunately, Google then sent the company a takedown notice, asking that the app be removed.

YouTube Windows 8

That app hasn’t come back yet. However, upgraded apps from Windows Phone developers and new features in the free Windows Phone 8.1 update that’ll begin going out to users of Nokia Lumia, Samsung and HTC’s Windows Phones soon, will add a few new tricks for comfortably watching YouTube videos on Windows Phone.

Watching YouTube Videos Through an App

There are a few apps that allow users to watch YouTube videos directly.

TubePro seems to be the favorite of Windows Phone users hoping to not spend any money on app to watch a service that should actually be free to access just about anywhere. TubePro allows users to browse their subscriptions and look through playlists of their favorite videos. It also allows users to download specific videos for offline playback later on. Again, as TubePro is free for everyone to download, Windows Phone 8.1 users don’t have much at stake if Google suddenly decides to block it like it did Microsoft’s YouTube app.

Tube Pro

Tube Pro for Windows Phone

For those who are comfortable investing a bit of money in a YouTube app for Windows Phone, there are two very nice applications to consider purchasing: new comer Toib and MetroTube.

Toib allows users to browse and search for YouTube videos and includes buffer support so that users can quickly share their favorites with their friends. It does lack video downloads but it more than makes up for that with a simple to use interface and customizable live tiles for different channels. It costs $.99 cents in the Windows Phone Store, but users can download the app to their Windows Phone now and take advantage of a free trial.


Toib for Windows Phone

Toib for Windows Phone

One of the longest-serving YouTube apps has been MetroTube for Windows Phone. Video commenting, subscriptions and video browsing are all featured in this app, and it also supports Windows Phone 8.1 unique features like transparent Live Tiles. YouTube has changed its service and broken the app a few times. Still, MetroTube’s developers have kept it updated and working flawlessly. MetroTube is available as a $.99 purchase or a trial that lets users fiddle with the app as long as they want.


MetroTube for Windows Phone.

Either app you choose is fine. All work for now.

Third-party apps are one thing, but since none of the YouTube apps for Windows Phone are sanctioned by Google or YouTube, visiting YouTube’s mobile website is the safest long-term solution to watching YouTube videos on Windows Phone.

In Windows Phone 8, users could simply tap on YouTube videos in Internet Explorer and they instantly take over the screen and start playing. Windows Phone 8.1 takes this ability and makes it more useful.

For starters, users only get a full screen experience if they want it. As such, those users who’d prefer not to have to hop between a video player and YouTube’s actual site are better off. Using YouTube’s mobile website gives users access to their channel controls, Watch Later queue, message inbox and their viewing history. Users can also manage their subscriptions there too.

It’s a mobile site, which means that users give up some functionality. Flagging, commenting and sharing videos all work here but there’s absolutely no YouTube video uploading none at all. Users who are going to visit YouTube’s mobile site to watch YouTube videos are better pinning the site to their Start Screen by tapping the menu bar in the bottom of Internet Explorer for Windows Phone 8.

What to Know

Before committing to using either one of these methods, it’s important to understand their limitations. Just like YouTube’s mobile website isn’t a perfect replacement for a YouTube app, neither are third-party apps. For example, there’s no YouTube video uploading, that’s a crucial problem in this situation.

Microsoft has sort of solved this by adding a file picker that allows Windows Phone devices to upload files through Internet Explorer. On some level that addresses the issue except that users are stuck trying to navigate the desktop version of YouTube. That can be cumbersome.

It’s also important to remember that YouTube could decide to change its stance on third-party apps at any moment just like it did with Microsoft’s YouTube app. Suddenly, any of the apps mentioned here could stop working, whether users paid the developer money or not. If that makes you nervous, stick to the free YouTube app alternatives.

Happy watching.