There’s a lot of music – and stories and news – on YouTube, and it stands to reason that you want to play it in the background on your mobile device while reading, texting or doing other things. Unfortunately, unless you are a subscriber to YouTube Premium ($ 11.99 per month) or YouTube Music ($ 9.99 per month), your ability to listen to a YouTube video in the background is limited – doable, but limited.
Android users have a little better in this regard. Recent versions of the YouTube Android app allow you to use Picture-in-Picture (PiP) to view (or listen to) almost any YouTube video while you read your tweets or check the latest news – that is, any video, except one that is labeled as music.
We will look at an alternative solution for music videos on Android – and also for iPhone users (who, so far, do not have access to the PiP feature). But first, here’s how to enable PiP for YouTube on Android.
- Open the Settings menu from the notification drop-down lists or the main menu
- Select “Apps and notifications”
- Touch “Advanced” at the bottom of the screen
- Select “Special application access”> “Image in image”
- You are now in the list of PiP compatible apps, along with those that are enabled. Check if PiP for YouTube is allowed; otherwise, touch YouTube and activate it.
Now, when you enter the YouTube app and start playing a video, you can simply press the Home key at the bottom of the screen and the video will zoom out, allowing you to access another app while it continues to play. If you touch the center of the video, a small box will appear; tap again and the video will be enlarged. You can also pause if you want. A small “x” in the upper right corner interrupts the video and banishes the box.
There is a very big “but” here, however. As mentioned earlier, PiP will not work if you try to play something classified as a video clip. To do this, you must be a YouTube Music or YouTube Premium subscriber.
There are some workarounds, however. You can play a single track in the background on an Android phone and an iPhone – but it’s a little bit complicated. And I was unable to play more than one song in a playlist on both operating systems. When I tried it on an Android 10 phone, the same song was repeated, while on an iPhone with iOS 13, the music just stopped.
However, if you want to try it out, here’s how to play music in the background from your mobile device.
On an Android phone
This method, which I saw for the first time written in Digital trends works on Chrome and also on other mobile browsers.
- While you’re in Chrome, visit the YouTube website. (This should be done using a mobile browser, make sure you’re on the website and not the YouTube app.)
- Find the video you want to play
- Touch the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen and select “Desktop site” from the drop-down menu
- You will now be using the desktop version of YouTube. Start the video again.
- Touch the Home key at the bottom of the screen. As soon as you see your home screen, the music can stop. But wait …
- Pull the notifications down at the top of the screen. You should see the notification for the current song; just press play to restart.
On an iPhone
Playing a free YouTube video – any video – on an iPhone is even more complicated, especially since some methods that previously worked were hammered by iOS 13. Finally, I found a method that really works (most of the time, anyway) on one video produced by Daniel About Tech.
- Find your video on Safari. (You will probably be using the mobile version of YouTube.)
- Touch the “ANA ”in the upper left corner of the screen
- In the drop-down menu, tap “Request desktop site”
- On the desktop version of YouTube, launch the video and drag to close the Safari app
- The video will probably stop playing. Pull down the Control Center in the upper right corner of the screen. You will see the video loaded there; press the play button and the video will start playing again.
I had no problems playing a single video in the background using this method. If it doesn’t work for you first, according to Daniel, if you go back to Safari and restart the video, it should play. But while I was able to play a single video in the background, as in the Android workaround, I couldn’t play more than a single track.
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