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How to Play YouTube in the Background (Free and Paid)

Listen to a lot of audio-only content on YouTube? Play those YouTube videos in the background with this handy workaround.

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play youtube in background on android

There’s a ton of audio-only content on YouTube, whether podcasts, video essays, or lectures. There’s no reason to watch them, but turning off your tablet screen or switching to a different app will stop the playback. That’s unless you know how to play YouTube in the background, of course.

There are two main ways to do that: the official, YouTube-approved paid method and a free workaround that the company may or may not patch in the future. We’ll cover both here.

Browser-Based Methods (Free)

Firefox (Android, iOS)

If you want to play YouTube videos in the background for free on Android, you’ll want to download the Firefox browser. Chrome has a similar function, but I never got it to work. So, I recommend Firefox for a trouble-free experience. This was tested on my Honor Pad X9.

First, go into Firefox settings, scroll down to the “Advanced” section, and change “Open links in apps” to “Never.” I don’t think this step is necessary, but it helps guarantee that Firefox won’t pass websites and links to their respective apps (such as YouTube).

Once that’s done, open the YouTube website using Firefox. Navigate to the video you want to play in the background and tap the Settings icon in the top-right of the Firefox window. In the drop-down menu, select “Desktop site.” The page will then reload and show the desktop version of YouTube. Now, play your video.

Once the video is playing, you can return to your home screen, and the video should continue playing. On Android, it’ll play in the notification shade. On iOS, the video should play in the OS’s Picture in Picture mode, which you can then drag to hide.

However, do note that this method has some quirks. For example, this method stopped working after I accidentally tapped on a podcast app notification on my tablet; I had to restart Firefox to get this Desktop site method to work again. It’s a minor issue and one that you may not even encounter, but I felt it was worth pointing out.

The biggest issue, though, is that YouTube may find a way to patch this. After all, this workaround makes one of YouTube Premium’s best features irrelevant. So, it makes sense that YouTube would want to stop this and force everyone to subscribe to their paid service.

But until that happens, enjoy playing videos in the background for free!

Read: Best Podcast Apps for Android

Brave Browser (iPad)

Brave is a popular security-minded browser for the iPad. The Android version does not have the same features.

On the iPad, Brave Browser has features such as a built-in firewall and VPN and also comes with ad-blocking functionality by default. However, the most interesting feature for our purposes is the Brave Playlist feature.

Brave Playlist lets you play YouTube videos offline; one of our other writers tested the feature and found that videos continued playing, even without WiFi. Add videos to the playlist, and you’ll be able to watch or listen to them whenever you want—including with your screen off. It’s a great feature and certainly helps make Brave one of the best browsers for your iPad.

Samsung Internet

If you’re using a Samsung tablet (like the new Samsung Galaxy A9+), then you can use Samsung Internet to force YouTube videos to play in the background, even when you leave the browser.

To enable this feature, open Samsung Internet’s settings and look for “Useful Features.” Then, you’ll want to tap on the “Background Play” option, where you’ll find three choices: “On,” “Only on headphones or external speakers,” and “Off.” Choose either one of the first two, and you’re set.

YouTube videos should now play in the background, including when you turn off your screen.

YouTube Premium (Paid)

Suppose you want a simpler, future-proof method of playing YouTube videos in the background. In that case, you’ll want to subscribe to YouTube Premium.

If you’re unfamiliar, YouTube Premium is the video platform’s subscription service. Its main selling point is ad-free playback, but it also offers video downloading and, crucially, the ability to watch videos in the background.

Subscribing to YouTube Premium turns on the background play feature by default, so you don’t need to mess around with any settings. Just play a video and return to your home screen; you’ll notice that the video keeps playing in a small picture-in-picture window. The video will also keep playing if you turn off your screen.

YouTube Premium picture-in-picture

If you don’t want to see the small video window after you minimize the app, go into the YouTube app’s settings, tap on “General”, scroll down to “Picture-in-picture,” and disable it. I really like the feature, but it’s pointless for audio-only podcasts and such. You can even disable the background play feature entirely, but that defeats the purpose of YouTube Premium in my book.

YouTube Premium also gives you access to YouTube Music, which is one of the best music streaming apps on Android. It’s not a big deal if you already subscribe to Spotify or Tidal (for example), but it helps make the subscription price for YouTube Premium feel a lot more worth it.

And that’s really the only issue here: value. YouTube Premium isn’t cheap, costing $13.99 monthly in the US (or $22.99 monthly for a family plan). It’s certainly quite a price to pay for ad-free and background playback. Is it worth that much? Only you can decide.

Read More: How to use an Android tablet: All Basics Explained (very easy)



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