YouTube’s mobile app’s had picture-in-picture (PiP) mode for some time now, but it only works within the app. As soon as you switch apps or land on the Home screen, the video doesn’t continue playing because Google wants to serve you pre and mid-roll ads through the app. That could change soon as the search company is now testing an iOS-friendly PiP mode.
The new feature is being tested with a small group of users.
Among the beta testers is Apple developer Daniel Yount, who spotted it while watching a live YouTube stream on his iPad. He then took to Twitter to note that picture-in-picture was working on iPadOS with the YouTube app. “It only worked with this live stream, there must be some codec trickery happening behind the scenes for certain playback scenarios,” he added.
This is a major change for YouTube’s iOS app.
Picture in Picture working on iPadOS with the YouTube app.
(But only worked with this live stream, there must be some codec trickery happening behind the scenes for certain playback scenarios). pic.twitter.com/75vG7Ai4ln
— Daniel Yount (@dyountmusic) August 27, 2020
Currently, you can enjoy background play (audio) if you’re subscribed to YouTube Premium ($11.99 per month on the web or $15.99 per month via the iOS app). It’s unclear whether this test means Google might permit YouTube for iOS users to enjoy PiP functionality even if they’re not subscribed to YouTube Premium or if this nice feature will be free for all.
TUTORIAL: How to use PiP on iPhone
Interestingly, folks can use PiP for YouTube videos on their Mac without restrictions, whether or not they’re paying users. Power users should be aware of a simple, longstanding iPhone and iPad workaround: paste a YouTube video’s URL into Safari and start watching on the web, then enter iOS’s PiP mode to continue watching YouTube while interacting with other apps.
PiP has been available on the iPad since iOS 9.
iOS 14 has brought PiP to the iPhone. In addition, Apple has licensed the VP9 coded used on YouTube so people who update to iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14 or macOS Big Sur this fall will finally be able to watch YouTube in 4K in Safari on their devices without third-party help.