How to Play YouTube in the Background on Your Phone

Keep listening even when you can't watch

What to Know

  • On Android, you can use the desktop version of YouTube in a Chrome browser to play videos in the background.
  • If you have Android 8.0 or later, use Picture-in-Picture (PiP) by going to Settings > Apps > YouTube. Select Allowed under PiP.
  • On iOS, download Dolphin for iOS or Opera for iOS, then go to the YouTube website and play your video.

This article explains how to play YouTube videos in the background while you work on your phone. While this functionality was present in its various apps, YouTube decided to reserve this particular functionality for paying subscribers of its YouTube services: YouTube Premium and YouTube Music. We point out a few ways to get around the limitation.

Person playing YouTube via Control Panel on iPhone
Julie Bang / Lifewire

Use Desktop Mode on Android

One easy way to get YouTube to play in the background is to use the desktop version of YouTube on your Chrome browser. Here's how it works.

  1. Open Chrome, and enter to find the mobile version of YouTube.

    Avoid the YouTube App

    Typing an m in front of the YouTube URL,, ensures you will stay within the browser to access YouTube. It's important to stay in the browser, and not jump over to the YouTube app if you want YouTube to play in the background.

  2. Search for the video you want to play. Once you've found the video, tap the three vertical dots in the upper right of the screen to select Desktop.

  3. Once the site refreshes, press the start button to play the video. Switch apps, or put your screen into silent mode, and the video will stop.

  4. Swipe down to reach the control center, and find the video in your settings. Press play.

    Loading desktop site and playing video via pull-down shade
  5. Turn off your screen, or switch to another app, and YouTube will continue to play.

Picture-in-Picture View on Android

Designed to help you multitask, Picture-in-Picture (PiP) is a feature available on Android smartphones running Android 8.0 Oreo and later. Here's how to use PiP to play YouTube videos in the background.

Not a Music Player

PiP mode for videos that contain music content is only available for YouTube Premium members, which is explained later in this post. You must also have the latest version of YouTube installed on your device.

  1. Turn on PiP by going to Settings on your smartphone or tablet.

  2. Tap Apps.

  3. Scroll down to find the YouTube app, and tap YouTube. At the bottom, select Allowed under Picture-in-picture.

    Allow picture-in-picture for YouTube
  4. To enable PiP, start playing a video within the YouTube app, and press the home button. The YouTube video will appear in a small window on your screen, which you can move around with your finger. The video will continue to play as you open other apps.

Use an Alternative Browser on iOS Devices

Although PiP is not available on YouTube for iOS devices without a subscription, you can still play YouTube videos in the background on your iPhone or tablet by using an alternative browser, such as Opera and Dolphin.

  1. Download Dolphin for iOS or Opera for iOS.

  2. Once downloaded, open the browser. Type into the search bar to find the YouTube site.

  3. Search for the video you want to play on YouTube within the browser.

    Do Not Use the YouTube App

    It's important that you stay in the mobile version of YouTube within the browser, and do not click on any YouTube link that will take you to the YouTube app on your device. The top of your search bar will say

  4. Play the video. Once the video starts, switch to another app, or put your screen into sleep mode. The video will stop.

  5. Swipe to find the music player, and check to see if the title of your video is showing there.

    Sometimes iOS defaults the media player to your music library in the music player, rather than the video. If this happens, simply go back to the YouTube video in Opera or Dolphin, and press play again to clear out the music player so that it defaults to YouTube.

  6. Once the title of your video shows up in the control center, press play to let the video play.

    Picture in picture on iPhone
  7. Put your phone back into sleep mode, or switch apps, and the video will continue to play.

If the Workarounds Fail: Subscribe or Download

Any workarounds that let YouTube play in the background could disappear at any time as YouTube figures out how to close the loop. If you are dependent on this, you'll need to subscribe to YouTube's services.

YouTube offers two subscription services. YouTube Premium (previously known as Red) allows you to play videos in the background and comes with access to original video content for $11.99 a month. YouTube Music is a music streaming service that allows YouTube videos to play in the background for $9.99 a month.

An alternative is to download the videos to your device and avoid the YouTube app altogether.

  • How do I download YouTube videos on an Android device?

    To download a YouTube video on an Android device, use the official YouTube app if you have a Premium subscription. Find the video you want and tap Download. If you don't have a subscription, you can use a third-party app.

  • How do I play YouTube videos in a loop?

    To play a YouTube video in a loop, open YouTube in a web browser. Right-click or long-press the video and select Loop.

Was this page helpful?