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5by for Android review

We review 5by, an Android app from StumbleUpon that guides you to the best videos on YouTube.

Ever had trouble finding something good to watch on YouTube? Okay, so you can search for things and ‘surf’, by clicking related videos each time, but – let’s be honest – there’s an awful lot of dross to wade through. Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly find the good stuff you’re interested in, particularly when you only have a few minutes spare?

This is where 5by comes in. Describing itself as a ‘video concierge’, the service has been compared to Songza: whereas the latter creates music playlists to suit your mood, 5by aims to do the same for videos – with curated content sourced from both YouTube and Vimeo.

To help it find the sort of things you like, the app starts out by asking you about your interests and friends via a few multiple-choice questions. You can then sign in with Facebook or email.

Once logged in, the app’s slick interface offers six video categories based on your interests and the time of day.

For instance, on Monday morning we were offered a choice of videos for ‘Getting caught up’, Geeking out’, ‘Showing your friends’, ‘Entertaining you’, ‘In transit’ and ‘On the john’ (no kidding). Choosing the last of these, we were presented with 18 ‘channels’, from Babes to Wow.

Tapping one, you’re then asked how much time you have, from 1 to 15 minutes. Finally, you get to see your first video, with the usual playback controls when you tap the screen, plus options to share, like and rate it – which then helps 5by fine-tune its future content for you.

If you’re not enjoying the current video, simply swipe left to bring up the next one – in fact, you can keep swiping to browse what’s on offer, stopping on one you fancy. If you’ve had enough of the current channel, just bring up the left side menu and tap Concierge to start over.

Alternatively, tap Customize to change your answers for the original multiple-choice questions. Strangely, unlike the website portal, there’s no option to surf channels, nor to see the newest videos and view your history.

So, does it really work? Well, it offered some interesting videos that roughly suited the categories and moods we selected, although it soon came up with a piano-playing dog, so don’t expect to avoid animal antics altogether! It also learns from your ratings and skips, so should improve the more you use it.

At the very least, it acts as a sort of quality filter by curating the better content from YouTube and Vimeo – although this ultimately limits the serendipity and freedom offered by those services directly.

We’d have appreciated the option to link our YouTube account (as featured in the iOS version) for playlist access, too. Unfortunately, we also experienced some lengthy delays starting videos at times (although our connection was fine) and occasional crashes, so it seems the app still needs a bit of work.