How to listen to a YouTube video in the background (or screen off) on Android

Videos on YouTube are not only meant to be watched, but also to be listened to. Basically, the YouTube application does not allow you to play videos in the background, but if you just want to listen to music hosted on the Google platform on your Android smartphone, there are solutions. 

For many years, YouTube was designed for videos and only for videos. Despite the large amount of music videos, YouTube doesn't just allow you to listen to a video while letting it run in the background. Fortunately, Google has finally launched its Premium subscription allowing you to continue reading with the screen off or with another application on top.

YouTube Premium

In June, Google finally launched its YouTube RED service in Spain. For the occasion, it has been renamed YouTube Premium. Two distinct services are available; the first is YouTube Music, the counterpart of Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music which allows background music listening and songs download. This offer at 9,99 euros per month is however limited to musical content.

To take full advantage of YouTube without advertising and with the possibility of downloading any video from the platform, the package is a little more expensive and amounts to 11,99 euros per month. The offer is worth the effort, however, since it also gives access to YouTube Music Premium and Google Play Music in addition to removing all ads from the videos you watch. This is the price of peace of mind and we can only urge you to subscribe.

However, we can understand that some cannot afford such a service. In such a case, we can only advise you to take advantage of the free access to the platform thanks to the advertisements that pay the creators and amortize the logistics costs. However, this solution does not allow you to enjoy offline content, which can be a bit annoying. So here are some alternatives.

Using YouTube with the screen off

There are several reasons for wanting to let YouTube run in the background, starting with power consumption. Listening to music on YouTube quickly becomes a drain on the phone's battery and some would like to be able to turn off their screens in order to grab a few precious minutes of battery life. If the native app doesn't allow it for free, there are backdoor ways, like Black Screen of Life, an app that's available for $ 1,99, or for free with ads.

Available on its developer's website or on the Amazon App-Shop, Black Screen of Life offers to mute the phone screen when the phone's proximity sensor is covered. To use this feature, all you have to do is download and launch the application, then click on the big circle that then appears on the screen to make it turn green. It may also be necessary to go to the settings (the gear at the top right) and check the Compatibility Mode box.

This app has the advantage of letting you use Google's YouTube app, but also works with more apps (like TV channel replays). Once BSoL is activated, an icon in the status bar will remind you of its presence and you just need to hide your phone's proximity sensor to turn off the screen without stopping the operation of the applications in progress. The sensor in question is usually located above the screen, near the earpiece. Storing the phone in your pocket or turning it face down is enough to activate the function. You can also hide the top of the screen with your hand or a piece of paper for example.

Please note: Magnetic flip covers put the phone in standby mode when closed and therefore cannot be used to hide the sensor.

Use YouTube in the background

In another genre, there are applications that offer access to the YouTube catalog without being subject to the same restrictions. These applications are nevertheless frowned upon by Google and are not available on the Play Store or on the Amazon App-Shop. While this kind of application can be handy for occasional use, you are nevertheless strongly encouraged to consider subscribing to YouTube Premium if you use it regularly.

NewPipe, the next generation

In this area, the reference is called NewPipe. It is a completely free open source application available on F-Droid, the free or open source application store for Android.

Compared to the official Google app, NewPipe allows you to download videos for offline viewing, switch to background, or them switch to windowed mode, which allows them to be viewed using another application.

The application is very easy to use, to listen to your video in the background, just:

  • click on the Background button before launching
  • click on the menu button (the three vertical dots) then "Switch to the background"

This makes it possible to change the application without cutting the video playback. Ideal for listening to music or a podcast while continuing your activities (web browsing, social networks, etc.). In addition, it also works when you turn off the screen of your smartphone (or tablet).

The application also manages windowed mode which, as its name suggests, will allow you to continue playing a video in a small window displayed on the screen, while the user launches other applications. The window can be resized with a two-finger pinch on the screen.

Finally, note that this application does not allow you to identify yourself with your Google account, because its developers want to remain as independent as possible from Google. Support for playlists and subscriptions will therefore be done locally, without synchronization.

What about YouTube's terms of service?

Remember that accessing YouTube videos from a third-party application is against the terms of use of the service, as is downloading files:

You agree not to access the Content by any means whatsoever other than the video playback pages of the Website itself, the YouTube Player or any other means that YouTube may explicitly designate for this purpose;

You will not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license or otherwise exploit any Content for any other use without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content.

The use of these features will therefore be done in your soul and conscience.


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