How to play YouTube in the background on iPhone(2021)

How to play YouTube in the background on iPhone

A very common annoyance that comes with watching content on YouTube on your iPhone is that it automatically turns off when the app is not in the foreground. That is if you respond to a text or open any other app on your iPhone the video will stop playing.

While of course, the video can’t keep playing when the YouTube app is running in the background, it would be nice if at least the audio continued playing instead of everything just stopping.

It’s especially useful to listen to songs or longer podcast-style videos where you don’t necessarily need to see the visuals.

Of course, this feature is only available for YouTube Premium users at the moment. But the convenience it adds to your daily life is well worth the price. If you want to experience it yourself, this article will explain how to get YouTube to play in the background on iPhone and iPad. 

Play YouTube in the background using web browsers on iPhone and iPad

Instead of just using the standard mobile browser site of YouTube on the iPhone, requesting the desktop site seems to work for some people. The steps to do this are different depending on which browser you have.

On Safari, you simply need to tap the aA symbol to the left of the address bar, which brings up a small menu of options. From those options, tap Request Desktop Website. On Chrome, simply tap the 3 vertical dots and select the Request Desktop site option.

Request Desktop Website

From there, play the video and return to your home screen. The video will more than likely stop playing. To resume playing the video, open your Control Center and tap the play button there.

Some have reported that this no longer works with Safari anymore, while others say it still does. We managed to get this to work on an iPhone 11 running iOS 14.2. To get it to work, we had to use the Request Desktop Website (the mobile version of the website would not work). We then locked the phone screen with Safari open and the video playing. This stopped the video from playing, but, after pressing the play button on the lock screen/in the control center, the video started playing while the phone was locked.

YouTube Premium (Formerly Known As YouTube Red)

We know that purchasing and subscribing to YouTube Premium will allow you to have YouTube play in the background, but that will cost you some money ($11.99/month as of December 2020). 

However, if you don’t mind paying for YouTube Premium, then that is perhaps the easiest and best way to play YouTube in the background of your device.

YouTube TV

It’s important to note that YouTube Premium is not the same as YouTube TV. YouTube TV is a separate service that allows you to watch cable and satellite television through YouTube, making it a great cord-cutting service for those who want to watch their favorite shows. You can also use YouTube TV to watch live broadcasts, which is especially helpful for sports fans.

Despite YouTube TV having plenty of great features, it does not offer its users the ability to watch their shows in the background on their mobile devices. So not only will you be paying a lot more for YouTube TV than you would for YouTube Premium, but you also won’t be able to watch your shows with your phone screen turned off.

But without any further ado, let’s finally look at the few different ways that you can play YouTube content in the background on the iPhone.

Picture-in-Picture (PiP)

There are two different ways to listen to YouTube in the background on iPhone with the Picture-in-Picture(PiP) feature. The first is when Picture-in-Picture(PiP) mode is enabled, and the second is when PiP is disabled.

  1. Open the YouTube app and tap your profile picture at the top right.
  2. Tap Settings and then General.
  3. Toggle on Picture-in-picture.
  4. Now, when watching a video, exit the app by swiping up or pressing the Home button.
  5. The video will continue playing in a smaller window.
  6. Swipe to the screen’s edge to minimize it.

The video will continue playing in the background. You can use other apps or even lock your screen.  

You can access controls like the play/pause button, rewind, and forward from the Lock Screen or the Control Center.

When PiP mode is disabled in Settings, a video you are watching will automatically continue playing in the background if you navigate away from the YouTube app by swiping up or pressing the Home button.

Use Private Browsing

This method involves Private mode on Safari. Simply open the Safari browser and go to YouTube. Once there, open up the video you want to have played in the background. Then, you need to convert the session to a private one, and you can do this by tapping on the rightmost icon along the bottom bar and then hitting Private.

Third-Party Apps

If nothing is working, you can always try to download a third-party app to help you play YouTube in the background on your iPhone. These apps can help to circumvent YouTube trying to block background content from being played.

A few of these can be found in the App Store, so just choose the one you want to use and follow the steps within the app. One popular app is Youtube Music App available in Apple’s App Store.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully these methods (or at least one of them) have worked for you so you can enjoy YouTube audio content in the background of your device. Many people are still upset that Apple and YouTube have made it so hard to have YouTube running in the background, but at least there are some workarounds.

While these may be time-consuming and annoying to do, they work, and that’s all you can ask for. It is hard to know exactly why they don’t let us use YouTube in the background (could be because of YouTube TV), but hopefully they eventually make it easier for us.

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