How To Play YouTube in the Background on the iPhone [December 2020]
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.
Well for a long time, there was a way to listen to YouTube content in the background. This involved going into your mobile browser of choice and, after playing the video for a little bit, you could close the internet.
If done correctly, this would allow you to go into the control center and hit the play button, which would start playing the content you had loaded in your mobile browser.
However, in recent iOS updates, this no longer works, which left thousands upon thousands of iPhone users with no option to play YouTube in the background of their devices.
Thankfully, some iPhone users have discovered a couple of other ways. While these methods might take a little bit longer, they do indeed work.
Now, be aware that Apple and YouTube themselves are actively looking at removing these methods, so some of the methods within this article might not work anymore when you are reading this article.
And who knows, maybe there will be some new and clever way to get YouTube to play in the background of your device. If you know of a new method of getting YouTube videos to still play while in the background of your iPhone, please tell us about it in the comments below!
Because YouTube does offer a Premium service that offers this function it’s no wonder why Apple and YouTube are actively seeking to shut down the workarounds.
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.
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.
Request The YouTube Desktop Site
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.
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.
If this still doesn’t work for you, try it with another browser or move on to the next method.
It has been confirmed as of December of 2020 that this will work with Chrome, but, you do have to let the music play for a minute or two before locking the screen. Once done, the music will go silent, simply hit the play button from your device’s lock screen and the music will begin to play again.
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.
This will open up the video in a private session. Next, once the video plays you can exit the browser and still play the audio content by using the control center.
Once again, some people have claimed this no longer works, while others claim that it does still work. We weren’t able to activate it successfully on an iPhone 11 running iOS 14.2. However, it did work after requesting the desktop site as we mentioned above.
Try 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.
These apps will sometimes get taken down and might even stop working, but another one normally pops up. Also, make sure to do some research on the various apps and choose the one with the best online reputation among users.
If none of our methods listed above are working for you, there’s a few things to try.
First, when playing from a web browser, make sure you let the music play for a bit before locking your screen. We were able to replicate that this works in Safari and Chrome in December of 2020. But, if you immediately lock your screen the music will not play.
If Safari and Chrome aren’t working for you, check your phone’s battery percentage. An iPhone low on power won’t allow apps to run at full capacity when the screen is locked. Try charging your phone or turning off Low Power Mode if it’s on.
Lastly, head over to your phone’s settings and check for any app restrictions or Screen Time limitations. Apple doesn’t let us control all of the app functions like Android does, but you may find something preventing you from successfully performing the steps.
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.