Skip to main content

How to play free YouTube music in the background on Android and iPhones

How to play free YouTube music in the background on Android and iPhones


If you’re using the free version of YouTube, it’s doable but ultimately unsatisfying

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

There’s a lot of music — and storytelling and news — on YouTube, and so it stands to reason that you’d want to be able to play it in the background on your mobile device while reading, texting, or doing other things. Unfortunately, unless you’re a subscriber to YouTube Premium ($11.99 a month) or YouTube Music ($9.99 a month), your ability to listen to a YouTube video in the background is limited — doable, but limited.

Android users have it slightly better in this respect. Recent versions of the Android YouTube app allow you to use Picture-in-Picture (PiP) to view (or listen to) almost any YouTube video while you’re reading your tweets or checking out the latest news — that is, any video except one that’s labeled as being music.

We’ll look at a workaround for music videos in Android — and for iPhone users as well (who, as of this writing, don’t have access to the PiP feature). But first, here’s how you enable PiP for YouTube in Android.

  • Open your Settings menu from your notifications pull-down or from your main menu
  • Select “Apps & Notifications”
  • Tap “Advanced” at the bottom of the screen
  • Select “Special app access” > “Picture-in-picture”
  • You are now at the list of apps that support PiP, along with which ones are enabled. Make sure that PiP for YouTube is allowed; if not, tap on YouTube and toggle it on.
PiP in YouTube for Android


Now, when you go into the YouTube app and start playing a video, you can simply press the Home key at the bottom of your screen, and the video will shrink down, allowing you to go to another app while it continues to play. If you tap the center of the video, a small box will appear; tap again, and the video will go to full size. You will also be able to pause it if you want. A small “x” in the upper-right corner will stop the video and banish the box.

There is a very large “but” here, however. As mentioned previously, PiP will not work if you try to play anything classified as a music video. For that, you need to be a subscriber to YouTube Music or YouTube Premium.

There are a couple of workarounds, however. You can play a single track in the background on both an Android phone and an iPhone — but it’s a bit fiddly. And I was unable to play more than a single song in a playlist in either OS. When I tried it on a phone running Android 10, the same song kept repeating, while on an iPhone running iOS 13, the music simply stopped.

However, if you want to give it a try, here’s how to play music in the background of your mobile device.

On an Android phone

This method, which I first saw written up in Digital Trends works in Chrome and may work in other mobile browsers as well.

  • While you’re in Chrome, go to the YouTube website. (This has to be done using a mobile browser, so make sure you’re in the website and not the YouTube app.)
  • Find the video you want to play
  • Tap on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the screen, and then select “Desktop site” from the drop-down menu
  • You’ll now be using the desktop version of YouTube. Start the video again.
  • Tap the Home key at the bottom of your screen. As soon as you see your home screen, the music may stop. But wait...
  • Pull down your notifications from the top of the screen. You should see the notification for the current song; just hit play to restart it.
Background music on Android


On an iPhone

Playing a free YouTube video — any video — on an iPhone is even more tricky, especially because some methods that previously worked were hammered by iOS 13. I finally found a method that actually works (most of the time, anyway) in a video produced by Daniel About Tech.

  • Find your video in Safari. (You’ll probably be using the mobile version of YouTube.)
  • Tap on the “AA” symbol in the top-left corner of the screen
  • In the drop-down menu, tap on “Request Desktop Website”
  • In the desktop version of YouTube, start the video and then sweep up to close the Safari app
  • The video will probably stop playing. Pull down the Control Center from the top right of the screen. You’ll see the video loaded there; press the play button and the video should start playing again.
Background music on iPhone


I had no trouble playing a single video in the background using this method. If it doesn’t work for you at first, then, according to Daniel, if you go back into Safari and restart the video, it should play. But while I was able to play a single video in background, as in the Android workaround, I was unable to play more than a single track.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 48 minutes ago Midjourneys

External Link
Russell Brandom48 minutes ago
Oracle will pay $23 million to settle foreign bribery charges.

The SEC alleges that Oracle used a slush fund to bribe officials in India, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

This behavior is sadly common among software companies doing business overseas, and it’s not unique to Oracle. In March, a former Microsoft executive claimed the company spent as much as $200 million a year in bribes for foreign officials.

External Link
Emma Roth3:16 PM UTC
Celsius’ CEO is out.

Alex Mashinsky, the head of the bankrupt crypto lending firm Celsius, announced his resignation today, but not after patting himself on the back for working “tirelessly to help the company.”

In Mashinsky’s eyes, I guess that means designing “Unbankrupt yourself” t-shirts on Cafepress and then selling them to a user base that just had their funds vaporized.

At least customers of the embattled Voyager Digital crypto firm are in slightly better shape, as the Sam Bankman-Fried-owned FTX just bought out the company’s assets.

Mary Beth Griggs2:46 PM UTC
NASA’s SLS rocket is secure as Hurricane Ian barrels towards Florida.

The rocket — and the Orion spacecraft on top — are now back inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building. Facing menacing forecasts, NASA decided to roll it away from the launchpad yesterday.

External Link
Andrew J. Hawkins1:30 PM UTC
Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle brand is about to go public via SPAC

LiveWire has completed its merger with a blank-check company and will make its debut on the New York Stock Exchange today. Harley-Davison CEO Jochen Zeitz called it “a proud and exciting milestone for LiveWire towards its ambition to become the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world.” Hopefully it also manages to avoid the cash crunch of other EV SPACs, like Canoo, Arrival, Faraday Future, and Lordstown.

The Verge
Andrew Webster1:06 PM UTC
“There’s an endless array of drama going on surrounding Twitch right now.”

That’s Ryan Morrison, CEO of Evolved Talent Agency, which represents some of the biggest streamers around. And he’s right — as you can read in this investigation from my colleague Ash Parrish, who looked into just what’s going on with Amazon’s livestreaming service.

The Verge
Richard Lawler12:59 PM UTC
Green light.

NASA’s spacecraft crashed, and everyone is very happy about it.

Otherwise, Mitchell Clark is kicking off the day with a deeper look at Dish Network’s definitely-real 5G wireless service , and Walmart’s metaverse vision in Roblox is not looking good at all.

External Link
Jess Weatherbed11:49 AM UTC
Won’t anyone think of the billionaires?

Forbes reports that rising inflation and falling stock prices have collectively cost members of the Forbes 400 US rich list $500 billion in 2022 with tech tycoons suffering the biggest losses.

Jeff Bezos (worth $151 billion) lost $50 billion, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin (worth a collective $182b) lost almost $60b, Mark Zuckerberg (worth $57.7b) lost $76.8b, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (worth $4.5b) lost $10.4b. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (worth $83b) lost $13.5b while his ex-boss Bill Gates (worth $106b) lost $28b, albeit $20b of that via charity donations.

Thomas Ricker6:45 AM UTC
Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.