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Google has finally switched on YouTube’s offline playback capability, starting with India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

First announced in September during the launch of the Android One program, the feature allows users to download their favorite videos to their devices and watch them without an Internet connection for 48 hours.

Videos for which the feature is enabled are marked with an offline playback icon; tapping it lets the user select the preferred quality (360p or 720p). After the content is cached, the videos are available from the Offline section of the side menu.

youtube offline playback

The feature isn’t intended as a way for users to permanently keep content on their devices. Google sees it as a way to get through short periods of lack of connectivity, hence the two day availability of cached content.

For now, offline playback is available for “popular YouTube content” in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, including music videos.

Why is Google rolling out such a desirable feature in developing countries first? It’s because the specific conditions there – wireless internet access is still relatively underdeveloped and expensive, and Google is looking for ways to cater to the large swaths of population who don’t have high-capacity wireless on their devices. In India alone, just 10 percent of the 900 million phone users have smartphones, so the growth potential is definitely massive.

“YouTube offline is just a start. We hope to keep finding better ways to make video content more affordable and accessible to our growing base of YouTube mobile users in the region,” said Jay Akkad, YouTube product manager for Asia Pacific.

Google has been very active in India recently. Along Android One, Google offers the Nexus line to its localized Play Store, as well as the Chromecast, which just launched in India this week.

This doesn’t mean that Google couldn’t eventually bring the feature to developed markets. But for now, the company is mum about the eventual availability of offline playback in other countries.

Would you find offline YouTube playback useful?

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