Windows Phone 8.1’s greatly improved YouTube experience, plays under lock screen and more

When it comes to video playback on Windows Phone, especially YouTube, things can get a little complicated. We won’t rehash the whole Google-Microsoft tiff over an official app again, but what we can share with you is some details about how Microsoft worked really hard on Windows Phone 8.1’s HTML5 video capability.

We recently spoke with a Microsoft Program Manager who worked on the IE 11 HTML5 audio/video features, including all the details of the modifications. They’re quite significant, and we’re confident that once you learn about them, you’ll be even more excited to pick up the 8.1 bits in the coming weeks.

Windows Phone 8.1 now features an upgraded browser, Internet Explorer 11, which has a significant amount of enhanced video playback. Sure, third party YouTube apps will have their role e.g. for more advanced tasks, but the new video player in the browser will offer a playback experience akin to the desktop. Here are the improvements:

Internet Explorer 11 HTML5 video and audio capabilities

  • Inline Video and Full Screen Video Playback – Videos embedded in websites can be played directly, without “blowing up” to full screen, allowing users to continue to read the site while the video continues. That’s useful for sites like CNN or YouTube, where reading comments and details could be beneficial. Alternatively, users can tap the full screen button to regain that experience and site and content providers can make full screen playback the default.
  • New Controls – Videos will pause and keep their place if you switch tasks/apps. Before, your position was lost. There’s another highly requested feature: scrubbing. Users can now slide to a particular position in the video.
  • Audio and Video playback behind the lock screen – Yup, you can now lock the screen and still have the audio play. You can even do this for sites like Grooveshark (html5.grooveshark.com). However, if you minimize the app (aka task switch away), the video/audio stream will pause.
  • Universal Volume Control Integration – Similar to the above new feature, you can still have access to the video/audio controls when on the Lock screen for playback. You can even switch songs on a site like Grooveshark without unlocking the phone.

As you can see, the video and audio playback experience on 8.1 is significantly improved. Playing with devices here at Build, it feels very much like sitting at your desktop and using full Internet Explore to view media. That’s an important enhancement and reinforces the growing co-development of Windows and Phone.

For the user, it just feels like one, intuitive experience.


Reader comments

Windows Phone 8.1’s greatly improved YouTube experience, plays under lock screen and more


Love watching 30 second ads for a 1 minute video! Think of all the time I could waste looking at 30 second ads for every video I've watched on YouTube since 2007.

The only thing they missed is being able to switch to another app and be able to continue to listen.

The whole "play while on locked screen" was already done on MetroTube.

MyTube, and maybe others, let you switch apps and keep playing. I think lock screen support is good enough for a web browser.

Yes but being able to listen to grooveshark after moving away is really awesome, although I guess at least they are making improvements..

I just use SuperTube on my phone and YouTube RT on my Surface so I can download videos to watch anytime, ad free :D

This is great. Went onto the Engadget article about the 5-year-old and the security flaw. Got a message from the phone saying that the stream isn't supported by my phone. Daniel, maybe you should try visiting the same article on Engadget and see if that message pops up in 8.1...

These features are the only things I've been craving. Good job Windows Phone team!

Posted via the WPC App for Android!

Nice additions, but still the lack of the "official" Microsoft app sucks. Especially when it was really good.

I still use the Microsoft´s official youtube app, it´s certainly really good :D 

PS: I´ve unlocked my phone to use it, before someone asks

With all due respect, the app had the ability to upload videos, a feature missing from all the apps now available.

I wonder if using html 5 and winks they can use those same controls and features and make an app? I don't know how different ie11 vs html5 app is in terms of features like this. Even if its not the best app, there should BE the official app

Ability to make an official app isn't what has stopped it. In fact, there is an official app. Google stopping it's use because they don't like Microsoft is what stopped it.

Then you didn't watch WPCentral's hands on video the other day. Installing apps to SD card will indeed be a feature in 8.1.

I would like to know this as well as you were able to get full 1080p videos to play with-in the browser before if you went to the desktop version of the site. This was before Google changed things. If all you can get in the browser is HQ then who really cares about all of this.  I want my HD.

I like the 3rd party apps because they skip the ads. This is cool and all, but im happy with TubePro=)

a big fuck you to google.  web based apps are fucking annoying.  This is how you bypass googles stupid arrogance.

You should already have it, as said almost everywhere: it has been released right after this reading course you've obviously never been to. :-P
Serious answer: nobody knows. Wait and see...

"we’re confident that once you learn about them, you’ll be even more excited to pick up the 8.1 bits in the coming weeks"

NOOOOO... don't make me even more excited, I can't take it!!!

These seem like great improvements.

Did they add the ability to turn off the music player controls when there is no longer audio playing or will we still need a "kill music" app to get rid of it?

I don't really listen to music on my phone and sometimes I'll play one song and then those media controls always show up no matter if it is a day later and I haven't listened to anything else.

It's just one of those minor annoyances where I don't want to see it if I'm not using it. It just takes up screen space when changing the volume. I'm not listening to the song, so why do I want to keep seeing it. Obviously, it goes away when I reboot the phone or use a kill music app.

I understand that it needs to stay up so if you pause the music and want to start it up again later without going back to the app, but it also needs a close button for when you don't want it showing up.

" It just takes up screen space when changing the volume."

Most people only change the volume when you're listening to music, on a phone call, or watching a video - and when watching videos it doesn't show (and even when it shows, it goes away within a second or so by itself). Which situation is it where it covers up something you need to see on the screen while changing the volume?

I am genuinely curious about this because it's the first time I've ever heard someone have an issue with this.

Well, since separate volume controls aren't here yet, I have the volume on so I can hear phone calls, but I like to turn the volume down when playing games so I don't disturb people. Like I said, it's just a minor annoyance that I have to see what song I was listening to yesterday every time I adjust the volume.

Apparently, we aren't allowed to express our annoyances though. Even then, I wasn't complaining about anything, just asking if anything has changed with it. (Not directed towards you. More towards people like "MakeDamnSure" below.)

It doesn't help that I'm still relatively new to Windows Phone and on my old Android phone, the music player on the lockscreen went away as soon as I pause the music. It would be irritating to go thru two lockscreens every time just because they wanted to permanently leave the music player up (even though you aren't using it anymore.)

I want the opposite. A way to have them always tied to the music I was listening to. So if I accidentally hit play on a video I don't have to go all the way back into the music app to start playback of music again. I hate that it disappears.

Yup, this is much more of a problem for me. I've never intentionally wanted the music controls to go away, but almost every day I encounter the situation you describe.

Hmm, maybe I'm just a minority or something, but it seems like it never goes away for me.

It would be nice if there was the ability to have a live tile with music controls on it instead of having to go into an app or use the volume controls, but you can't please everybody.

It doesn't bother me too much the way it is though because there are apps that can "kill the music" and get rid of them, but in your case, there is no app to keep it from disappearing.

I agree with you though. It would be ideal to either have a live tile to play/pause music from without ever opening an app. Or an 'x' to get rid of the controls for those that don't like them. I personally wouldn't mind if they were always enabled, but I'm probably the minority in that regard.

Wow, I'm really Really happy I made the switch to Windows Phone..I'm looking forward to all of the improvements in the future updates..love it!!!!

WohOOooo.. Browser Upload now works with WP8.1 . It might not be a big to everyone else here but that is a major thing for some of the webApps that I have. Just tested in the emulator.

Wish Google would just release a YouTube app for Windows Phone. Windows Phone is catching up to iOS and is already ahead in many countries, its only fair to give these people access to Google's service.

Microsoft can u build your own search engine. We Windows phone users dont wanna rely on u tube. So please if u can. Initially it wont make it large but may be after 5-10 years.

I am not a fan of this change. I have always thought that the auto switch to full screen was a great feature. Hopefully there is a setting to choose full screen or embedded.

Yep, I can't read cause my comment said "setting" and that is alot different than hit an on screen button to go full screen.

One feature absent from the 3rd party apps is the pair to tv feature. Only the web app got it, so the new browser will make YouTube web app easier to use.

I think a lot of people in the comments missed the point of this article. It's not about YouTube. It's about HTML5 and IE11. And WebGL though not mentioned.


Couple of questions on WP8.1. if anyone knows:

- can you turn off Cortana and e.g. just have a simple universal search and Bing pop up when clicking the search button? I don't think I will like the "AI" with cutesy comments etc. all the time.

- Has copy paste been improved in terms of the copied text actually staying in the memory even if you jump from app to app a few times etc.? Now it disppears too quikcly.

if you just type in the search (you will still be greeted by cortana, but she won't speak) you will get what you're looking for. this was demoed in the build conference by belfiore if you wanna see it in action

Thanks, yes I know but would prefer a less "fake personality greeting me with repetitive pleasantries" option. :P

Need flash support. As much as I hate flash, my iPad using friends really hate they don't have flash support. If MS would do something like they do with RT on WP it would be good. I was really hoping flash would be dead by now...maybe html5 will finally be it's demise. I'm guessing not though.

I can't even remember the last time I neede flash support on the phone. Well, no that's not true - Bleacher Report uses Flash for some reason on their desktop website. But other than that I can't think of anything.

The less that its supported the quicker it will stop being used. So in a weird way not having it is for the best.

Ya, I know. But the average run of the mill apple user doesn't know that. Maybe in Windows RT and Windows Phone 9 merge.

Agreed. Windows RT has a great browser. Plays anything Adobe Flash related with video and audio. Also want the Tracking Protection List feature of IE for blocking ads on websites.

i watched that video ...but the features mentioned in this article were not shown. So what i actually asked was a complete new refreshed video

There is way too much love here on this site. the HTML5 video update while good is not enough. it will feel clunky if we have to continue to use the mobile site as the app. I don't care how they do it(html5 app or not) they need to make it feel smooth and it has to be called Youtube. i have a lumia 920 and really like the way Microsoft is headed. i use Metrotube and have only small complaints(mainly app switching and continue to play music) however my wife is not techie. I bought her a surface the question to me is "where is Youtube" i explained you can use metrotube. she said "ok" and then took out her Iphone and used Youtube on her iphone. If you want to be bigtime, you need to have bigtime app like Youtube(official). Microsoft knows this, they just need to find a way to pony up or break some rules like they did last year and sue for antitrust, it doesn't matter to the mass market consumer. and for me, they need to start embracing microSD and file manager or i am going back to android for the phone(i love the tablets too much to ever switch).


Too much love or differing opinion? There's a big difference as I don't agree with much of what you said and will dismiss it.

He's right Dan, we need a file manager. I still have my Nokia 603 which has Symbian and is such an amazing thing to have a file manager. Its something so basic and i don't agree with all the talks that a file manager compromises on security, that's a pretty lame excuse to give from MS. But the html5 update is something i love and looking forward to. But but again file manager MS

Just tell your wife to pin the youtube site to her start screen. I agree its not perfect but its familiar and it works.

If Microsoft can't republish their YouTube app in the near future, I hope they at least make one of their WebApps for YouTube that removes the address bar to give it a cleaner experience.

Even if there were a native Youtube app it would not effect the changes that this update brings anyway. So already there is no need for an official app if you look at it that way.

Can you already play videos "under lock screen" without Internet Explorer 11 HTML5 video and audio capabilities?

Is it possible to flash windows phone 8.1 to Samsung Ativ S just like android or smth, because I wanti wp 8.1 NOW

Looks fantastic.

I'd love to know more about IE11 on WP8.1 - particularly:

- can 'favorites' now have folders?  (I assume so, if they can be synched with desktop IE11 - but I've not seen how the favorites select page/dialog looks yet)

- are usernames/passwords/etc. remembered now too (if user tells it to)...?

Thanks. :)

Wow... because that is feature was totally not there before myTube and Metrotube came out... and various other youtube clients. 

I still hope Google and Microsoft can put their differences aside and give us an official YouTube app :( I know it's unlikely, but I can dream!

Now that Microsoft has implemented HTML5 in their browser, what more excuses Google wants to not develop Youtube app for WP8

Maybe, just maybe IE will be so good I can finally remove some apps I use because IE on the phone works bad.

Nice feature this is awesome people always welcome features. Now we can trust microsoft team after windows 8 thanks for continuous improvement........honestly i love my lumia 920.

IE11 may have many improvements but cannot play many videos that IE10 played just fine. Now IE11 just gives an 'Invalid Code' error over the video placeholder - any ideas anyone?