You Can Unlock YouTube’s Picture-in-Picture Mode in iOS 14

Screenshot: David Murphy
Screenshot: David Murphy

Picture-in-picture mode is coming to iOS 14 (soon-ish?), but when it does, it probably won’t be available for the one video app you likely use more than any other: YouTube. That will change soon, too — YouTube is rolling out support for picture-in-picture mode right now — but odds are good that you aren’t going to be able to check it out even if you install the iOS 14 public beta on your iPhone.

Them’s the breaks. And I feel you there; I’ve been running the iOS 14 beta for months and I still can’t run YouTube in picture-in-picture mode — at least, not using the YouTube app. But there’s a clever workaround you can use to get picture-in-picture access on iOS 14 right now. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best you’ll be able to do until YouTube rolls out this feature to everyone.

To try it out on iOS 14, all you have to do is pull up YouTube’s main site in Safari. Tap your way through to play a video, and then embiggen it to full screen mode using the little square icon in the lower-right corner.

Screenshot: David Murphy

Once you’ve done that, look for the picture-in-picture icon, which looks like one big window pointing to a smaller window. You can’t miss it. (It’s to the right of the giant “X.”)

Screenshot: David Murphy

Your video will shrink to picture-in-picture size, and you can now swipe out of the YouTube viewer and do whatever else you want to do on your iPhone (or iPad). You can move the video around on your screen as needed, though you’ll only be able to stick it to the four corners of your device (alas).

Screenshot: David Murphy

If Safari isn’t your browser of choice, you’ll be thrilled to know that this trick works in Chrome and Firefox, too — via exactly the same instructions. It works with any video on YouTube, including all of the service’s music videos. That’s different than than the native picture-in-picture setup Android users can enjoy in the YouTube app, which prohibits picture-in-picture for musical content unless you’ve subscribed to YouTube Premium.

I mention that because it’s unclear whether using picture-in-picture mode within the iOS YouTube app (once it’s made available) will be similarly restricted. Google has a lot more control over Android than iOS, and it’s possible that Apple’s APIs will force all YouTube content to be treated similarly — as in, as long as you can play it within the app, you can run it picture-in-picture.

Otherwise, the only other way I’ve found to use picture-in-picture mode within the iOS 14 YouTube app is to make use of a third-party workaround that drops a shortcut to a hacked-together PiP mode into your Share Sheet. I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s worth taking some time to explore if you just have to have picture-in-picture mode right now and don’t want to open up a browser window to get it.

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