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How to play YouTube in the background on Android and iOS

YouTube is one of the most varied content platforms in the world, and it’s easy to find tutorials, TV shows, and even the latest music videos. But it’s not just about the watching — sometimes all you want to do is listen to YouTube in the background while busying yourself with something else on your phone.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

5 minutes

What You Need

  • YouTube account

Closing the YouTube app will stop the video from playing, but there are a few simple workarounds that will allow you to listen to a video in the background. Better yet, there are ways to get a mini pop-up YouTube player while you browse elsewhere. This is our simple guide on how to play YouTube in the background, for both iOS and Android devices.

Looking for music on YouTube to listen to in the background? Take a look at our guide on how to download music from YouTube and listen on any device.

YouTube Premium (Android, iOS)

YouTube Premium is a subscription service that gets rid of ads on desktop and mobile, opens access to exclusive videos, and allows for the downloading of videos. But crucially for our purposes, it also allows you to continue listening after shutting off your phone’s screen or navigating to a different app. There are no steps to turning this on as it's on by default, so as long as you have YouTube Premium, it should work just fine.

YouTube Premium also comes with ad-free access to YouTube Music (the replacement of Google Play Music) and it gives you the option to shut off the screen in that app, too. What is the catch? As you might expect, it’s money. YouTube Premium will cost you $12 a month or $18 for a family subscription for up to six members — but you can get a one-month free trial. YouTube’s app is available for both Android and iOS.

Playing videos in certain browsers (iOS)

While shutting off the screen and continuing to listen to YouTube is a no-no in Safari and Chrome, it’s possible to use Apple’s Control Center with certain other browsers to bypass YouTube’s restrictions. Firefox and Opera Touch are two browsers that definitely work with this method, and we recommend testing out any other iOS browsers you prefer.

Here’s how you can get this method to work.

Step 1: First, navigate to YouTube from your browser of choice.

Step 2: Then, search for your chosen video.

Step 3: Once you’ve found and opened your video, change over to the desktop version of the site. Note: This will vary depending on which browser you’re using, but it’s usually accessed from the Options button in the top-right, followed by a tap on the Desktop Site option.

Step 4: Start your video playing.

Step 5: Now go back to your Home screen. Your video should start playing in a picture-in-picture (PiP) mode.

This step seems a little buggy, though, and we had to redo this multiple times to get it to work.

Step 6: You can either leave the video playing in the PiP window and use your phone as normal, or drag it over to the edge to hide it away.

Playing videos with Firefox (Android)

Playing YouTube videos in the background in Android can be done in Firefox in a similar manner to the one above for iOS. We've tested this for Firefox, and it could work on other, smaller browsers too. However, it's unlikely to work on any browsers using Chrome as a base, as Chrome has removed this as an option.

Step 1: Launch Firefox as you would normally and go to the YouTube website. Make sure to type “youtube.com” in the URL entry, as tapping YouTube in Google search results will usually cause it to open the app.

Step 2: Navigate to the video you want to play in the background.

Step 3: Go to the Settings menu by tapping the three dots in the upper-right corner of the window. Afterward, tap Request Desktop Site.

Step 4: Start playing the video, and swipe up to close your browser.

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Picture-in-picture mode in Android

This one seems like a bit of a cheat because it’s not an app at all. Ever since Android 8.0 Oreo, Android has enabled a “picture-in-picture mode,” which automatically pops up a miniature viewing window if you navigate away from YouTube. This window can be dragged anywhere on the screen and tapped to enlarge or to access playback controls.

This used to be for Premium subscribers only, but in 2018, Google started offering picture-in-picture on YouTube to non-subscribers, too, as long as you’re in the United States. However, it won’t work with content classified as music, so you’ll still need to pay for that.

On most Android phones, finding out which version you have is pretty easy. Simply go to Settings > About Phone > Android Version. You'll need at least Android 8.0 Oreo for this feature.

Picture-in-picture mode for iOS

After a long wait, YouTube is finally rolling out picture-in-picture mode for all premium U.S. subscribers on iOS. The feature will also soon be rolled out to non-premium subscribers, so all iOS users in the U.S. will be able to watch YouTube videos in a pop-up window when the app is closed. There shouldn’t be too much longer to wait for this feature, but if you’re still waiting for the rollout, you can continue to use the workarounds we mentioned above.

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