It may be tough to maintain a YouTube Music subscription in Spotify times, but of late, the former has picked up several desirable improvements like a new web UI and a feature that remembers the last playlist you were grooving to. However, YouTube Music has now rolled out a couple of changes to the mini player that appears at the bottom of the UI. It simplifies casting to a nearby device and going to a previous track, but there are a boatload of demerits users aren’t happy about.
Google recently started testing the redesigned mini player with a handful of users in May. 9to5Google and members of AP staff can now confirm the change is rolling out widely on the Android app for YouTube Music. On the surface, you will notice a redesigned UI for the mini player, featuring a prominent new Cast button where the Play/Pause button used to live. The latter is now nestled in the bottom-right corner, replacing the button to skip to the next track.
The old mini player (left); and the new mini player UI (right)
On the bright side, the redesigned mini player now supports swipe gestures to jump between tracks — you can swipe left to skip to the next track, and swipe right to go to the previous one. This makes it much more convenient to go to the previous track, because the older implementation didn’t have a shortcut button, and you had to use the controls in the notification shade or the full-screen player.
YouTube Music now also makes it very easy to see which Chromecast device you're connected to in the mini player. It only shows the name of one device even though multiple may be connected simultaneously, but it gives you glanceable information that wasn't present before. This is particularly useful when tied together with another controversial feature added recently: YouTube Music now automatically connects to Google Cast devices playing music on the same network as your phone.
Mini player shows the connected Chromecast device
It might seem like a good step forward, but users have already expressed their displeasure with the changes for a handful of important reasons. For starters, you can no longer dismiss the mini player by swiping down on it. This is a big annoyance, especially considering it's something that works even on the main YouTube app. As 9to5Google points out, this was likely done to prevent interference with the new swiping gestures in the mini player.
But this swipe down gesture was also used to clear your playback queue. This can be a major cause for chagrin, particularly if you often use YouTube Music on your smart speakers.
As pointed out by /u/matteventu on Reddit, without the ability to clear the playback queue in the YTM phone app, if you connect to a Google Cast-enabled smart speaker, any playlist it may have been playing will be overridden by the queue in your phone app. Previously, this could have been avoided by swiping down on the mini player before connecting, and this is only further compounded by the fact that YouTube Music now auto-connects to nearby speakers.
And the ugly
Even if you are okay with the functional changes and reassignment of critical gesture controls, /u/matteventu points out the UI is no longer in spec with Google’s own guidelines. With the Cast button now residing in the mini player, it's perpetually visible, even when you have no media playing. This can be quite an eyesore, and it's a clear downgrade for the overall UX.
The mini player stays even when nothing is playing
In summary, this is an awkward feature rollout from the YouTube Music team that takes away more convenience than it adds. With any luck, the changes could be rolled back in an upcoming update for the Android app, but for now, Google has gone against feedback from its users.