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.



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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.

Dk92 says:

Use toib, no ads.

Judge_Daniel says:

Just type in booyoutube instead of YouTube in the URL.

Marco Gomes1 says:

Lol! Thank god (read, devs) for apps:)

Quin 2013 says:

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.

MikeSo says:

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

True , I am waiting for a reply lol

AliNSiddiqui says:

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

MikeSo says:

Good point. I was only thinking about YouTube.

mdram says:

This is why i miss webOS...

ahmu86 says:

This. me too...

Pratik Mehta says:

Man,Windows phone is developing..

2tomtom says:

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

c1c2c3c4c says:

Same with "YouTube HD"

apocacrux says:

These are all things I wanted and didn't even realize it!

AskaLangly says:

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...


Yes this awesome. Could it be any Better!

meddyrainzo says:

The fact that even low end phones would receive this update is a huge selling point for WP

Pete Almanza says:

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

Posted via the WPC App for Android!

JNeail says:

Bring on the update... :P

Psyk00 says:

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

Dave_Arg says:

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

Mestiphal says:

*wink* I know what you mean, unfortunately we have the second version which eliminated the downloads...

Shobiz says:

Can they bring back the app now?

Quin 2013 says:

No one needs the app, there's better quality apps on the market.

Try SuperTube, or my fav. MetroTube

maxknux says:

I would argue that there should be a offical app avaialble at least.

wrm1 says:

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

expectafight says:

you can upload via supertube...

narv says:

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.

There was no talk regarding installing apps to SD card. Is this available on 8.1 or not


Yes the head if windows phone confirmed it in the YouTube video introducing windows phone 8.1

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.

aleclunsford says:

It is actually the default for apps now. Developers have to put a flag if they don't want to allow it.

rogonso says:

only 10 more days!!!

LTTG says:

That's incredible! I can't wait till April 14th...

I think with the new runtime they can pretty much run any rt application on wp.

Talk4Lig says:

Will there be also hd video support? Does anybody know if it's possible?

Kram Sacul says:

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.

Talk4Lig says:

Exactly my thoughts :) Hope it will happen.

bsayegh says:

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

smartfonefan says:

The best time to be with windows phone...it just keeps getting better. I'm looking forward to my Cortana..

NIST says:

Dan features himself in his own article. Awesome.

Lipe13 says:



to be a whole lot more comfortable to view videos on our devices now. Great news!

hs k says:

Did they add scrubbing in Music+videos hub or similar apps?

Lipe13 says:

Yeah, I'd really like to me able to give my musics some scrubbing too... Good point.

whats the phone in the picture?
thanks :D

that screen.. 0.o BE-A-UTIFIL! :D
thanks man :( too bad its a u.s.a. only :'(

Lipe13 says:

Hmmmm... Get the 930? It's the same phone.

Jack Larson1 says:

But with glance.

No Glance in the 930... (at least for now, maybe Nokia or MS will be able to work around the hardware limitations)

Ticomfreak says:

The Nokia Lumia 930 is the international version of the Nokia Lumia Icon.

onysi says:

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

I3unny says:

When will wp8.1update come for my L520?

eXus#WP says:

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...

Kleen Jimi says:

or, you know, read or something

MikeSo says:

"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.

schiznatch says:

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?

MikeSo says:

What's the need for turning off those controls?

schiznatch says:

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.

MikeSo says:

" 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.

schiznatch says:

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.)

schiznatch says:

Also, here is the link to the "Kill My Music" app. The reviews should give you an idea I'm not the only one with these feelings.


apocacrux says:

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.

MikeSo says:

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.

schiznatch says:

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.

apocacrux says:

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.

aha518 says:

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!!!!

I wish windows phone would play flash videos.

apocacrux says:

Flash is not supported by any mobile platform. Its dead man, grieve then move forward.

jenza77 says:

Thats not true. Why does it work with Android and iphone then?.  In here http://www.hammarbyfotboll.se/default.aspx  u can play all videoclip with Android and Iphone but NOT Windows phone. IT SUXX!

RogerWh says:

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.

Fisher_9511 says:

That's nice, but when I first tried myTube I already knew I won't go back.

iinnnnit says:

can IE now backward and forward with hand gesture on WP8.1?anyone knows this?

Barry Allott says:

Yes, confirmed. Swipe right or left

iinnnnit says:

Ohh,thank you!that's great

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.

Nomolos88 says:

When has anyone actually benefitted from reading the YouTube comments?

apocacrux says:

If you consider laughter a benefit, then pretty much always.

Aashish13 says:

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.

Roun says:

I'm gonna assume you mean video service and not search engine... cuz Bing bro.

joindown says:

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.

apocacrux says:

It says so in the article that you can switch between the two...

Kleen Jimi says:

if only you could read

joindown says:

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.

YouTube... YouTube... not ringing a bell.

Jabid21 says:

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.

Not soon enough; just so the last minute bugs are fixed. 810 user here; Developer Program is the only way I'll get 8.1.

gonza1520 says:

Sounds great!! Wish we could update to 8.1 already!!

arxlansalman says:

what about ability to download data ? is it possible now?

Josip Zeljko says:

Could you check if it's possible in wp 8.1 to upload pictures to google plus.

chrispyogurt says:

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.

Dumbed says:

what about live video stream playback? like on iphone...

Viipottaja says:


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.

Kleen Jimi says:

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

Viipottaja says:

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

Kacey Green says:

For now you can change your region to something other than English United States

sundawg#WP says:

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.

MikeSo says:

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.

apocacrux says:

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

sundawg#WP says:

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.

TechAbstract says:

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.

krAnthi209 says:

why dont you make a demo video on internet explorer?

krAnthi209 says:

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

Sh4mo says:

There is still no way to open the links directly in an app of my choice.

Jsinghroy says:

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.

lonerider_wp says:

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

apocacrux says:

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

badger8080 says:

are the media volume controlled seperatly from the comunication volume?

vdubskey says:

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.

Kadcidxa says:

Thats great. This will kill the need for a official app from crappy Google.

apocacrux says:

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.

Kadcidxa says:

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

apocacrux says:

With a third party YouTube app, yes.

kalins55 says:

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

dracus_loki says:

Use the dev preview as it arrives , ,, mostly the 10th

cyber_k9 says:

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. :)

apocacrux says:

Usernames and passwords are remembered.

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

I truly can't wait till WP 8.1!! Still counting the days!!

coip says:

Man, I wish anybody but Google owned YouTube.

RaRa85 says:

So we should be able to stream live events now too right?

wizz5565 says:

Hi guys does the previews for developers app is the way to get WP 8.1 14 April ?!

felickz says:

Lock screeeeen!!!!

eruptflail says:


tallgeese says:

Awesome sauce!!!!!!!

Wooow finally! ;D

MrGoodSmith says:

My Unicorn is Ready !!

MDak280 says:

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!

Hey, just wanted to know will WP 8.1 support video on the go?? Which is kinda lacking in WP 8.

kvsanal78 says:

Multi windows could be the next big thinking for Microsoft #wp8.1

I need a help now can I watch live football steams on websites like nutjob ???

Gohar428 says:

Hmm..any info abt the SNS integration in wp8.1?

MaXi32 says:

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

Nakazul says:

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

monigal2 says:

Just give us the update please

negi ji says:

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.

MartLea says:

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?

jenza77 says:

Unlock flashplayer PLEASE!

Yes it works with Android and Iphone. http://www.hammarbyfotboll.se/default.aspx those clips in here should be easy to play :(.