Introducing Juno for Apple Vision Pro
February 1, 2024
YouTube is probably one of the parts of the internet I consume the most, so I was more than a little sad when YouTube announced that they don’t have plans to build a visionOS app, and disabled the option to load the iPad app. This leaves you with Safari, and the website is okay, but definitely doesn’t feel like a visionOS app. Couple that with visionOS not having the option to add websites to your Home Screen, and YouTube isn’t that convenient on visionOS by default.
Then I remembered for years my old app, Apollo, played back YouTube videos submitted to Reddit pretty well, and I developed a pretty good understanding of how YouTube worked. That sparked the idea to reuse some of Apollo’s code there and build a little YouTube client of my own for visionOS, and after a mad week of coding “Juno for YouTube” is born.
How does it work… technically?
YouTube has a few different APIs.
They have a “Data API” for fetching information (thumbnail, duration, etc.) for a video, that requires an API key, auditing, and you can only call so many times a day. This API doesn’t actually get you the video to play or anything, it’s purely for metadata, and for uploading.
They have private/internal APIs that they get grumpy at you for using because you can circumvent ads. The goal with this app was to not make Google grumpy.
The one downside is that occasionally you’ll get a creator who disabled playback for YouTube embeds. This is rare, especially with videos made in the last few years, but for those Juno will auto-detect that and just load up the normal video website page rather than the fancy player.
What about the browsing itself?
That results in:
- Tweaking backgrounds so the beautiful glassy look of visionOS shows through. As the great Serenity Caldwell once said, “Opaque windows can feel heavy and constricting, especially at large sizes. Whenever possible, prefer the glass material (which pulls light from people’s surroundings).”
- Increasing contrast so items are properly visible
- Making buttons like the button to view your subscriptions native UI, and then loading the relevant portions of the website accordingly
- You get your full recommendations, subscriptions and whatnot, just as you would on the normal YouTube site or app
It was a lot of work tweaking the CSS to get the YouTube website to something that felt comfortable and at home on visionOS, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Does it feel like a perfectly native visionOS app? Well no, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than the website, and to be fair Google apps normally do their own thing rather than use iOS system UI, so not sure we’ll ever fully see that. :)
Does it block ads?
It doesn’t, I don’t think Google would like that, but if you have YouTube Premium you won’t see ads, just like the website. Honestly, YouTube Premium is like one of the most essential subscriptions for me, it’s so handy to never worry about ads and it’s pretty cool in that it also supports the creators substantially more than if you watched ads. So I dunno, if you can afford an expensive Apple Vision Pro, I’d really consider treating yourself to YouTube Premium!
- Beautiful translucent visionOS interface
- Automatic aspect ratio detection
- Speed up or slow down video
- Native controls for video playback
- Pinch-drag anywhere to scrub through video (an Apollo classic)
- Double-pinch either side of the video to jump forward or back 10 seconds in time
- Quick launch YouTube from Home Screen
- Dim your surroundings to focus on the video
- View your recommendations, subscriptions, playlists, etc.
- Resizable (while maintaining correct aspect ratio)
- Automatic quality selection, should scale up or down based on the size of your window all the way to 4K
Features I’m looking into
This was a bit of a mad dash to get finished in time for the Apple Vision Pro launch, so I’m hoping to add some more things with time.
- Ability to see comments (I mean, they’re useful sometimes…)
- Maybe select quality directly if interest is there
- Caption controls (couldn’t quite get this working in time for 1.0)
- More immersive environments
- Multiview for multiple videos
If there’s more you’d like to see, let me know!
Can I give feedback?
Yes please, I’d love that! I’ve only been able to develop this in the simulator, which obviously has its limitations, so once I get my hands on a device this Friday I’ll probably have a lot of thoughts on things I want to improve as well. That also means there will probably be some bugs here and there too. But I’d love to hear your experience and feedback with the app, so feel free to reach out to me on Mastodon or Twitter!
Check it out!
It’s available on the App Store for $5! A fun URL to find it is juno.vision No subscriptions or in-app purchases, just a one-time paid up front app like it’s 2008. I considered making it free, or like a buck, but it’s a premium platform, and I think paying a few bucks for a good app is something we should encourage if we want more developers building for this platform.
I think the result is a really comfy way to browse YouTube on visionOS, and having a way to quickly launch YouTube right from your Home Screen is super convenient.
I’m looking forward to doing more with it, and cheers to Matthew Skiles for designing the icon! He actually made some beautiful alternate icons as well, but those apparently aren’t supported in visionOS 1.0.