YouTube Premium, the ad-free version of YouTube for $11.99 a month, today introduces a number of new features to attract and retain subscribers. Most notably, the subscription now includes higher quality video for web and iOS users, support for watching videos together on FaceTime via Apple’s SharePlay, and other controls for managing your queue on mobile devices.
The company believes the broader feature set will help it better market the subscription to consumers, as many are unaware of what else YouTube Premium offers beyond the removal of ads from YouTube. The launches also follow other recent additions, such as the ability to continue watching videos where you left off on any device and a “smart downloads” feature that automatically saves recommended videos for offline access. The latter feature is now also available to web users, in addition to iOS and Android.
While many of these previous features had more subtly enhanced the YouTube Premium subscription – running in the background where they might not be noticed by the end user – today’s newly announced additions will be more central to the viewing experience.
For starters, YouTube will begin rolling out an enhanced bitrate version of 1080p HD video quality to Premium subscribers on iOS and then the web in the coming weeks. (On the web, it will be available as an “experiment” first. To clarify, this is not one of the experiments in YouTube Premium’s offerings that give subscribers early access to new features before they are released publicly.) While all YouTube users can access holds up to 1080p, the improved 1080p quality setting makes videos look “extra crisp and clear,” says YouTube, including those with lots of detail and movement, such as sports and gaming. If implemented successfully, this could help YouTube Premium better live up to its name by providing a “premium” experience to subscribers, not just a less annoying experience by removing ads.
Another major addition is support for Apple’s SharePlay, first introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in 2021. While other video services have long supported SharePlay, including competitors such as Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and TikTok, YouTube will restrict access so only paying subscribers can use the co-viewing feature. That positions the service in a different space than rival TikTok, which was one of the first to support Apple’s co-watching feature for FaceTime users.
Of course, SharePlay now feels more like a pandemic-era solution to some extent, designed to connect people who can’t be together in real life. For example, Netflix never bothered to launch its own official co-viewing option, after apparently betting on declining usage for something like the COVID restrictions lifted. So it’s interesting to see YouTube trying to market SharePlay as an “add-on” instead of standard functionality, especially when the internal co-viewing solution within Google Meet already allows for co-watching on YouTube without the Premium upgrade for all users. (YouTube says Premium users are the only ones who can initiate in Google Meet, but anyone, including non-subscribers, can watch).
Another new feature offers more control over your queue when you subscribe to YouTube Premium. Starting today, Premium users can add videos to their queue when watching on phones and tablets. While YouTube users can now save videos to playlists for free, including Watch Later, queue users can decide which video they want to play next during their current viewing session.
The updates join other YouTube Premium features, including ad-free background playback to watch when the screen is locked, offline downloads, and access to YouTube Music Premium.
Correction, 11 a.m. ET: Internet high bit rate will be an experiment, says YouTube, but not mentioned on the experiment page at YouTube.com/new. We’ve also further clarified the requirements for YouTube through Google Meet.