YouTube is testing a pinch-to-zoom feature until September 1

Daniel Sims

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In brief: YouTube's latest Premium feature allows pinch-to-zoom on mobile devices. Of course, its usefulness may depend on the resolution of a video and the user's device screen. It's in a testing phase, but keep in mind that YouTube's experiments often don't reach public availability.

From now until September 1, YouTube Premium subscribers can zoom in while watching videos. Some YouTube content shot for PC monitors or TVs might contain text or small elements that could be hard to discern on a smartphone screen. So it may help users see finer details.

YouTube streams videos to mobile devices at lower resolutions to conserve mobile internet data, but it's harder to tell the difference on smaller screens. So the zooming may produce a blurry picture.

Some YouTube videos zoom in on small details to benefit mobile viewers. A platform-wide zoom function could help in this situation, but it might only be beneficial if users can stream at higher resolutions like 1440p and 4K. Other mobile video players, like Twitch, already include pinch-to-zoom without needing a paid subscription.

A year ago, YouTube experimented with a cheap premium-lite subscription that removed ads. However, the plan did not include offline video downloads or YouTube Music. This option got canned after a short trial.

Last September, the service temporarily let premium users download videos on desktops, but this too disappeared. Currently, subscribers can only download videos on mobile devices.

However, not all of YouTube experimental features winds up on the development floor.

One experiment that was perhaps YouTube's most controversial did become permanent — making dislike counts invisible to users. However, it's unclear how much this furthered the platform's stated goal of fighting targeted harassment.

Last month, YouTube permanently added picture-in-picture on iPhones and iPads. Premium subscribers received the feature last summer, but now it's available to free users in the US running iOS and iPadOS 15 or later.

Subscribers can sign up for experimental features through the YouTube Labs page. To use the feature, start a video in full-screen mode and then pinch the screen with two fingers.

The service's standard premium plan is $12 a month with a discount for paying up-front annually. YouTube also offers family ($18 a month allowing for more devices) and student ($7) plans.

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