Apple’s App Store has no shortage of Web browsers, and a lot of them have certain niches that might appeal to you. There are obviously the ones that support Flash, but the one I recently found so functional is iCab Mobile. It can do a lot of things that Safari can’t, but the one feature that stands out for me is the ability to download YouTube videos for offline viewing.
This is definitely not a new browser, since iCab Mobile ($2.99 in the App Store) has been around on the iPhone for at least the last three years (an iPad version followed in 2010). The beauty of this app is that it includes a download manager that integrates well with YouTube (though it can work with other video sites, I just focused on YouTube for this post). As I wrote in a previous post, Google developed a brand new YouTube app for the iPhone in response to the end of the licensing agreement it had with Apple, which designed and (barely) maintained the core version that came pre-loaded in iOS.
The new YouTube app is definitely an improvement but you can’t download what you want to view offline. That’s pretty unfortunate if you want to collect a ton of clips to watch while on the road or you want to be a bit careful with your monthly data bucket.
This is where iCab Mobile comes in. Navigate to the YouTube website (doesn’t matter if it’s the full or mobile version), and when you see a video you want to download, hold your finger down on it and a menu will pop up with a number of options. Choose Download and the app copies it over to your phone in MP4 format, so that the phone can actually play the file.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it actually is. Video playback doesn’t work within iCab, nor does it seem to work with the iPhone’s own Video app. You’d have to play them through a third-party video app that supports more file types (of which there are plenty). Dropbox and AVPlayer worked fine for me. The downside is that the video has to then be transferred to the other player. This usually doesn’t take very long at all, though it will depend on the size of the file.
Any downloaded videos can be deleted from within iCab, but you would also have to get rid of them from the third-party app if it had to fully copy the video over (like Dropbox does, for example). Dedicated video players don’t always have to do that, but again, this depends on which one you’re using.
The point is that you can prepare to watch what you want ahead of time, especially if you commute in to work or school on public transit. And that’s just one feature. If you opt to try it out, give iCab’s other features a look and see that you’ve got a pretty well-rounded browser for the iPhone and iPad.
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