Skip to main content

YouTube apparently rolls back feature that irked Apple TV users

A video preview (or screensaver, if you will) for abstract pouring techniques on YouTube, as seen on an Apple TV.
A video preview (or screensaver, if you will) for abstract pouring techniques on YouTube, as seen on an Apple TV. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Our long national nightmare is over. As spotted by the folks who blew the whistle in the first place (and picked up by 9to5Mac), you can now use the YouTube app on Apple TV without fear that YouTube itself will show a screensaver-like video as a preview of other videos when you’re not actually watching a video in the first place because you left the app idle.

Or in other words, folks will have to stop complaining that the YouTube app “stole” their screensaver away from Apple, even though it didn’t. Not really, anyway.

What happened was that at some point in April 2024, the YouTube app on Apple TV started showing what looked like screensavers if you left the YouTube app idle for around 4 minutes and change. And those screensavers had a little “Press up to play” icon that, when pressed up, would open the full video of the screensaver. So, really it was YouTube repurposing other videos as screensavers.

There were a few problems with that, though. Chief among them (to me, anyway) was that you didn’t have any control over it. There were no settings, and no mechanism by which to say “Don’t do that,” or “It’s fine, but wait longer before triggering.” It would hardly be the first time Google aimed after firing, though.

A preview for the "Alpen Relax" video on YouTube, as seen on Apple TV 4K.
A preview for the “Alpen Relax” video on YouTube, as seen on Apple TV 4K. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Also problematic was that from a visual standpoint, the YouTube screensavers just weren’t anywhere near as captivating as Apple’s own Aerial screensavers. Not by a long shot. Apple’s screensavers are still the best.

And then there are the Apple fans who scoffed at the mere idea that Google would dare sully their experience somehow. I’m not among them, though I do think Google could have done this a little better. Nor do I think the YouTube app was hijacking the screensaver experience — it was just, well, bypassing it a little. You could set Apple’s screensaver to kick in quicker, and that would keep the YouTube app from launching its own screensaver-like experience that, due to the way things work, would tell the Apple TV interface “I’m still showing a video, so don’t run your own screensaver!”

None of this was a huge deal, though. Folks were complaining about an app showing something when you basically stopped paying attention to the app in the first place. Coders can be clever sometimes, and this was one of those times.

Editors' Recommendations

Phil Nickinson
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
Why pause ads in YouTube aren’t the end of the world
A pause ad on a video on Peacock.

A pause ad seen on the Peacock streaming service that doesn't appear until you stop the video. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

There’s been a bit of teeth-gnashing this week after Google — a company that makes its money off advertising — dared to talk about advertising in public.

Read more
YouTube just massively angered Apple fans by adding a feature
A preview video of "Iceland Nature Drone Film" on YouTube, as seen on an Apple TV 4K.

The YouTube app on Apple TV will show a preview of a nature video after the app sits idle for four-and-a-half minutes. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Let’s say you happen to be an app developer that develops an app for the world’s biggest online video platform — YouTube. And you’re tasked with developing the app for what we consider to be the best streaming hardware you can buy — Apple TV.

Read more
Yes, YouTube TV is kind of broken tonight
YouTube TV and Hulu apps on the Roku homescreen.

The YouTube TV live guide is just one feature that's down for subscribers this evening. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

If you've fired up YouTube TV this evening and are trying to figure out why things are kind of broken all over the place, know that you're not alone. The most popular streaming service in the U.S. is seeing some fairly significant issues tonight.

Read more