How to play YouTube in the background on Android and iOS

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How to play YouTube in the background

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

Closing the YouTube app will stop the video from playing, but there are some easy workarounds that will allow you to listen to videos in the background. What’s more, there are ways to get the YouTube mini player to pop up while you’re browsing other pages.

This is our simple guide on how to play YouTube in the background for both iOS and Android devices.

Looking for YouTube music to listen to in the background? You might want to take a look at our guide on how to download music from YouTube and listen to it on any device.

YouTube Premium (Android, iOS)

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YouTube Premium is a subscription service that gets rid of ads on desktop and mobile, gives you access to exclusive videos, and lets you download videos. But importantly for our purposes, it also allows you to continue listening after you turn off your phone screen or switch to another app.

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

Playing videos in some browsers (iOS)

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Although turning off the screen and continuing to listen to YouTube is a ban in Safari and Chrome, you can use Apple Control Center with some other browsers to bypass YouTube’s restrictions. Firefox and Opera Touch are two browsers that definitely work with this method, and we recommend testing any other iOS browsers you prefer.

Here’s how you can make this method work.

  • First, go to YouTube from your chosen browser.
  • Then search for the selected video.
  • Once you have found and opened the video, go to the desktop version of the site. Note: It depends on which browser you’re using, but you can usually access it by using the “Options” button in the upper right corner and then clicking on the “Desktop Site” option.
  • Start the video playback.
  • Now go back to the home screen and swipe up to open Control Center.
  • You should be able to press the Play button to continue playing the video even when the screen is off.

Keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to turn it off from Control Center, but you can go back into the browser to stop the video.

Playing videos with Firefox and Chrome (Android)

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Playing YouTube videos in the background on Android can be done with either Firefox or Google Chrome. You can use either browser, but Chrome version must be 54 or higher.

  1. Launch Firefox or Chrome as usual and navigate to the YouTube site. Be sure to type “youtube.com” in the URL box, as clicking on YouTube in Google’s search results will usually open the app.
  2. Navigate to the video you want to play in the background.
  3. Go to the Settings menu by clicking on the three dots in the upper right corner of the window. After that, select Request Desktop Site.
  4. Start the video playback and click the Home button to close the browser. Note: If the video stops playing when you’re using Chrome, you may also have to pull down the notification bar and click the play button. Make sure you don’t close the screen before pressing the Home button, as this will cause the video to stop automatically.

Picture-in-picture mode in Android 8.0 Oreo and later

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This method seems a bit cheesy because it’s not an app at all. Starting with Android 8.0 Oreo, Android has enabled picture-in-picture mode, which automatically opens a thumbnail viewing window if you navigate from YouTube. This window can be dragged anywhere on the screen and tapped to enlarge or access playback controls.

This used to be available only to Premium subscribers, but in 2018 Google began offering a picture-in-picture feature on YouTube to non-subscribers as well if you’re in the U.S. However, it doesn’t work with content classified as music, so you still have to pay for it.

On most Android phones, finding out what version you have installed is pretty easy. Just go to Settings > About Phone > Android Version. Check out our guide to see if your phone has received the Android Oreo update, and then learn everything you need to know about the latest software update, Android 11.

Picture-in-picture mode for iOS

After a long wait, YouTube has finally launched picture-in-picture mode for all premium subscribers in the U.S. on iOS. The feature will also soon be extended to non-premium subscribers, so that all iOS users in the US will be able to watch YouTube videos in a pop-up window when they close the app. We won’t have long to wait for this feature, but while you’re waiting for it to roll out, you can continue to use the Apple Control Center workaround we mentioned earlier.

Playing video with Awesome Pop-up Video (Android)

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Although Android 8.0 Orea has built-in features for watching YouTube, if you have an earlier version, you can simply download the app. Awesome Pop-up Video will play the video you choose in a pop-up window so you can do other things while the video is playing. Just download Awesome Pop-up Video from Google Play, and then search directly within the app for the video you want to watch. Tap on it and it will open in a separate window that you can move around the screen, similar to the picture-in-picture mode in Oreo.

If you close the screen, unfortunately, the video will stop. However, thanks to the picture-in-picture format, you can at least use your main screen with background sound. Awesome Pop-Up Video also offers a premium option for viewing downloaded videos offline and removing ads. However, offline viewing is not available for YouTube videos.

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