YouTube consumes hours of our daily lives with its easy-to-consume content and endless variety to cater to all hobbies and interests. YouTube Premium, its subscription service, brings enhanced features, such as removing ads within the content, iOS Shareplay, and the ability on iPhone to listen to audio with the app closed.
The caveat with YouTube Premium is that it costs $11.99 a month, nearly twice the price of Apple TV Plus, just to access extra features on the same content you’d consume anyway. One of the biggest reasons for subscribing to YouTube Premium on iOS is to listen to audio like podcasts and music in the background while using other applications or having your phone in your pocket. Luckily, there’s a way to do this without subscribing to YouTube Premium: Here’s how.
How to listen to YouTube in the background on iOS without YouTube Premium
- Head to YouTube
Open Safari and go to youtube.com to find the video you want to play in the background. For this tutorial, I’ve chosen the 90s Lofi chillout playlist as I find it really helps with concentrating during work.
- Request desktop site
Tap the aA button next to the URL bar in Safari and tap Request Desktop Website from the menu bar.
- Play the video and lock your screen
Tap play to start your video playback. You’ll need to watch a couple of adverts before your video fully loads up. Once the video has started to play, lock your iPhone or swipe with your multitasking gesture to choose another application.
The video will pause, but you can then tap play and get all the benefits of background YouTube listening without forking out for a YouTube Premium subscription.
This hack works, but YouTube Premium is worth it
I’m a massive YouTube user. In fact, it’s probably my most used media application across all my devices, and an unfortunate part of what my doctor tells me is an unhealthy bedtime routine. I subscribe to YouTube Premium because it feels genuinely worth it for someone who uses the platform excessively.
Yes, you can use this hack for audio listening in the background, but YouTube has held back several useful benefits behind the subscription paywall. Picture-in-picture is the first feature that springs to mind – and one that I use on my iPad daily. Additionally, YouTube Premium lets me download videos for offline play, which is very useful for transport, especially if your commute has terrible service.
Last week, YouTube announced that iOS Shareplay was coming to the platform. As expected, it was another paywalled feature despite most iOS applications offering the ability to share media over FaceTime for free. I love YouTube Premium for streamlining my life, but I disagree with this constant paywall of basic features for the world’s most used streaming service. If adding another subscription to your monthly outgoings sounds ridiculous, try out this quick tip to get some of YouTube Premium’s features without the added price tag.
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John-Anthony Disotto is the How To Editor of iMore, ensuring you can get the most from your Apple products and helping fix things when your technology isn’t behaving itself.
Living in Scotland, where he worked for Apple as a technician focused on iOS and iPhone repairs at the Genius Bar, John-Anthony has used the Apple ecosystem for over a decade and prides himself in his ability to complete his Apple Watch activity rings.
John-Anthony has previously worked in editorial for collectable TCG websites and graduated from The University of Strathclyde where he won the Scottish Student Journalism Award for Website of the Year as Editor-in-Chief of his university paper. He is also an avid film geek, having previously written film reviews and received the Edinburgh International Film Festival Student Critics award in 2019.
John-Anthony also loves to tinker with other non-Apple technology and enjoys playing around with game emulation and Linux on his Steam Deck.
In his spare time, John-Anthony can be found watching any sport under the sun from football to darts, taking the term “Lego house” far too literally as he runs out of space to display any more plastic bricks, or chilling on the couch with his French Bulldog, Kermit.