Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lower the YouTube video quality on a mobile data connection

When I bought the iPhone 5S a little more than a year ago, I was quite pleased with the LTE performance. Previously with 3G on the iPhone 3GS and 4S, I could hardly stream YouTube videos without frequent buffering. A 5 minute long video would take more than 15 minutes  to playback due to these pauses. Thus the speed boost enjoyed by LTE was a very welcome upgrade for me.

But the situation didn't completely improve with LTE. Softbank was artificially limiting my streaming capabilities. They used to offer unlimited data with 3G probably because they knew it would total up only a couple of GBs even for heavy users. With LTE, I only could go up to 7.5GB before throttling. It’s actually only 7GB, and the extra 500MB was because I signed up for tethering, which was free of charge in the first two years. While 7.5GB was probably a lot, with the speeds observed with LTE, it was hardly adequate. But the biggest pull back was caused by the next limitation: you could only use 1GB in 3 consecutive days before throttling occurred.

Curse you, Softbank!

The YouTube app itself wasn’t helpful either.

Since the LTE speeds were great, it was “intelligently” playing back at HD Quality, which was 720pon the iPhone 5S. That’s would be hundreds of MB for one LinusTechTips video. You could change the resolution only if you were on Wi-Fi. What kind of retarded decision is that? I guess they don't have caps in the US. :-/

Unable to change quality setting

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Needless to say that this was really driving me crazy. Why aren't we allowed to use a lower resolution to save packets? I can understand it if it would adversely affect the streaming performance as people might stupidly select the highest resolution, thinking they knew better. If that's the reason behind it, giving the permission to reduce the resolution would not have affected streaming performance.

This had to stop. So I  decided to turn to Google to see if there were any jailbreak tweak that would allow me to override this limitation. Ironically everyone wanted to do it so that they could watch the videos at a higher resolution than the automatic setting - the exact opposite to my requirement. The tweak that everyone was recommending was 3G Unrestrictor. How it worked was that the used could specify a white-list of apps for which it would remove the 3G restrictions. In other words, it would trick the app to see that you are on a Wi-Fi connection even though you are on a mobile data connection.

Cool trick.

Since YouTube allowed you to change the resolution when you were on a Wi-Fi connection, I knew that I could use the same app to do what I wanted. So I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately it's not a free tweak; it was $3.99 on the Cydia store which I felt was quite steep to be honest. But I had been burned by this limitation many times in the past when I went over the 1GB/3 days limit and I needed it to stop. So without 2nd thoughts, I bought it.

After buying it, I launched the app and added YouTube app to the list of apps to unrestrict.

Added YouTube to 3G Unrestricter app list

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After that, I launched the YouTube app and loaded a video. First I made sure I was on 4G, and not Wi-Fi.

Yes, I indeed am using 4G

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Then I clicked on the three dots on the top right hand corner.

 Setting page for the video

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I got the following screen.

Video quality setting option

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Then tapped on the QAULITY button and there I chose the 240p option. This quality setting seemed to be the best balance.

Video quality

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Now I can enjoy YouTube videos on the road without killing my data limit.

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