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How to watch YouTube Music or videos in the background for free

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One of the most annoying things about YouTube is that you can’t run it in the background on your phone unless you have a paid subscription. You’re out of luck if you want to listen to a song while messaging a friend.

We have some good news. There are ways around this barrier, and we’ll show you how.

Pay to play

YouTube is free to use, but for $12 per month, you can subscribe to YouTube Premium. The service removes ads and lets you download videos to play offline. It also comes with YouTube Premium Music, which has a library of millions of songs.

Best of all, a Premium subscription lets you play videos and music in the background while using other apps or even when your screen is off. It’s a nice perk, but you can do it on your iPhone or Android without spending a dime.

Run YouTube in the background on your iPhone

Your iPhone’s built-in browser is your key to running YouTube in the background. Here’s how to do it:

  • Open Safari on your iPhone and type https://www.youtube.com in the address bar, then tap Go.
  • Once YouTube is loaded, tap the AA button on the left side of the address bar to open a menu.
  • Tap Request Desktop Website to get a desktop view of YouTube.
  • Choose the video you want to play and start it.
  • Minimize Safari and return to your home screen (the video will stop playing, but don’t worry).
  • Swipe down from the top-right of your screen to open the Control Center.
  • You’ll see the title of your video in the Now Playing widget.
  • You can now play, pause, and fast forward or rewind the video audio in 10-second increments in the background.

Related: These YouTube and WhatsApp copycat apps are hiding malware

Run YouTube in the background on your Android phone

You can use the YouTube desktop version on your Chrome browser to run it on your Android phone. Here’s how:

  • Open Chrome on your Android phone and type https://m.youtube.com in the address bar to get to the mobile version of YouTube.
  • Search for the video you want to play.
  • Tap the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner of the screen and select Desktop.
  • Once the desktop site loads, tap the start button to play the video.
  • Go back to your home screen and the video will stop playing.
  • Swipe down to reach the Control Center and find the video in your settings.
  • Tap the play button and YouTube will play in the background.

Play YouTube videos using picture-in-picture on your Android phone

There’s another way to keep YouTube running while you browse other apps. This method lets you see the video rather than just hear the audio. It’s simple:

  • Go to your Android settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special app access > Picture-in-picture.
  • Tap YouTube, then tap Allow picture-in-picture.
  • Open the YouTube app settings and go to General.
  • Toggle on Picture-in-Picture.
  • Start playing a video within the YouTube app and then go to your home screen. The YouTube video will appear in a small window on your screen, which you can tap and drag around your screen.

Note: If you don’t have YouTube Premium, you can still use PiP, but you can’t watch certain content, like music videos.

You may also like: Want to create a YouTube channel or vlog? Nine steps to get over video ‘stage fright’

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