YouTube is a great place to listen to music, but you’ll have noticed a big limitation when using it on your iPhone: the music stops when you turn off the screen or when you return to the home screen and open another app.
Being able to turn off the screen is pretty important and not just for saving battery power: it also stops the touchscreen working while the phone’s in your pocket and accidental taps which can skip to the next video.
Since you reading this, you already know that the official Google YouTube app won’t let you turn off the screen while watching a video so you can listen to music in the background.
That’s because Google wants you to pay for either YouTube Premium or YouTube Music Premium, both of which add this useful feature.
The easy answer, then, is to pay for YouTube Music or YouTube Premium and you’ll be able to play music with the screen off or while using another app.
But what if you don’t fancy shelling out for yet another monthly subscription? Well, good news: we’re about to explain a couple of workarounds that will do the same job, but for free!
Play YouTube in the background using a web browser
If you’ve already tried this in Safari or Google Chrome you may have concluded this workaround doesn’t work any more, but you’d be wrong.
You can use Firefox or Opera instead. Install one of these apps and browse to YouTube.
Be careful that you’re not redirected to the official YouTube app if it’s installed on your iPhone. If that happens, then type m.youtube.com into the address bar in Firefox or Opera and you should see the mobile site load.
1. Search for the music to listen to and choose a video (if you can’t think of anything, try Le Flex).
2. Start playing the video and wait for any adverts to finish and the video itself is playing.
3. Tap the fullscreen icon (bottom-right of the video, arrowed) to hide the rest of the web page.
4. Return to the home screen or switch to another app.
5. Swipe down to access Control Centre and press the play button in the music controls to resume playback.
The music should continue to play. You can now use another app or simply press the power button to turn off your iPhone’s screen and keep listening to music.
Play YouTube in the background using an app
Search the App Store for an app which can play YouTube such as iPlay Tube. If you can’t find this app, there are others which work in the same way: such apps are regularly removed from the App Store.
Launch the app and it will show you a list of the latest music, and it should look a bit like this:
Use the search function to find the song you want to listen to and then start the video playing.
To listen to the music in the background, make sure you wait until any adverts have finished and the actual video is playing.
Now return to the home screen. The music should keep playing, but if it stops then swipe to bring up Control Center. Tap the play button to continue playing the audio from the YouTube video.
You can now launch another app, such as Messages or Mail and the music will keep playing. Some games (those which allow you to keep listening to your own music) will still be usable without cutting off the audio from the YouTube video.
You can listen to YouTube with the screen off, too. Press the sleep/wake button to turn your device off and the audio should continue to play. Again, if it doesn’t play then press the power button again and tap the play button on the lock screen to restart the audio (you can also skip between songs in a playlist too).
Now when you turn off your iPhone or iPad, the audio will keep playing.
If neither of these methods work for you, try downloading YouTube videos to your iPhone. Then play it in your preferred video playback app: most will let you play sound in the background.
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