One of YouTube’s most long-awaited features has finally arrived, but American viewers will have to travel halfway around the world to unlock it. At an event in Guragon, India, Google exec Caesar Sengupta announced an offline playback feature that will be available on Indian Android devices.
Offline playback, which allows users to download YouTube videos and watch them without an active Internet connection, has long been rumored as an upcoming feature for the video site’s mobile app. It was first discussed a year ago, when a post on YouTube’s Creator Blog introduced it to consumers. A few months later, a bit of code within a YouTube app update hinted at offline playback’s imminent arrival. From that point on, however, updates were sparse. As YouTube continues to encounter setbacks related to its upcoming Music Key service, it has also been quiet about the potential release of offline playback.
The most recent hint came a month ago, when a screenshot of the new version of the YouTube app included an “Offline” tab that hadn’t been previously present. The India announcement serves as another piece of evidence, one that seems to forecast offline playback’s imminent arrival in the US.
“YouTube is popular here. You watch some videos again and again. How awesome would it be if you could keep watching them again and again without having to pay for data, and take the videos with you wherever you go?” said Sengupta. “Within the coming few weeks, much of YouTube will be available offline in India. This is huge, and our users will really, really like this. You can download a video once, save it to your phone, and watch it again and again.”
If offline playback is ready, when can we expect it to grace our shores? The timing of Google’s Indian announcement provides a clue. Google unveiled offline playback at the same time as a new Android phone for Indian consumers. Therefore, it’s possible Google is waiting to bundle the launch of US offline playback with another new development. We’re all ears.