Besides widgets on the home screen, one of the most exciting updates of the iPhone with iOS 14 is Picture in Picture mode. With it, you can watch minimized versions of videos on top of other apps so you can multitask like a pro. But not all services are on board with Apple’s new features. YouTube is the main culprit, but there is a solution.
Before we get started, the obvious answer to getting Picture in Picture to work in iOS 14 for YouTube is to subscribe to YouTube Premium. Because Google cannot charge for a built-in iOS feature, even YouTube Premium members cannot use PiP for the YouTube app in other apps. Instead, you need to sign in to YouTube in Safari or another browser and use the PiP player from there.
While iOS 14 was still in beta, the browser trick also worked for free YouTube users, but as soon as the stable release came out, Google quickly shut down that solution and limited it to YouTube Premium.
We’m not exactly happy that Google has gone to great lengths to avoid implementing an iOS feature in its YouTube app to get people to pay for a less than ideal browser experience. You’re probably not happy either. But there is another solution that works for free YouTube accounts.
The basic solution for YouTube Picture in Picture
While the YouTube app allows you to use Picture in Picture while using other parts of the YouTube app, it is not Picture in Picture that Apple intended. To watch YouTube videos while using other apps, the basic solution is to only play YouTube videos from an app other than YouTube or a browser like Safari.
One app that stands out is Pocket. With a Pocket account and the Pocket sharing extension, you can share a YouTube video from a web browser or the YouTube app directly to your Pocket account. Then, in the Pocket app, you can play the saved video and use PiP mode as it should work in iOS.
An alternative method that uses shortcuts
If you do not like having to rely on Pocket or another app to save YouTube videos so you can play them later, there is a shortcut you can take advantage of that will make the whole process a lot more fun. Not only can you play YouTube videos in PiP instantly, but you can get controls to choose quality, speed and more.
Step 1: Install scriptable
Before we get to the shortcut, install the free scriptable app from the App Store as it is needed in combination with the shortcut to make the real YouTube Picture in Picture work. In Scriptable’s own words, “[it’s] an automation tool that allows you to write scripts that integrate with built-in features of iOS such as files, calendars, reminders … and more. “
Step 2: Install the shortcut
There are many versions of the shortcut floating around the web, but from what we can tell, the original was developed by petergram, aka Farlingmandag89 on Reddit. It’s called “YouTube PiP”, the latest update is version 4. You can install it from its RoutineHub page, which will always have the most up-to-date version or from version 4’s iCloud link.
You may need to press “Get Shortcut” to download the app via one of the links. If you get an error in shortcuts that say you can’t open it, visit Settings -> Shortcuts, then switch to “Allow untrusted shortcuts” and try again. Once the Shortcuts app opens, you can inspect the entire YouTube PiP workflow before committing. Then tap “Add Untrusted Shortcut” at the bottom to add it to your shortcut library.
Step 3: Provide scriptable access shortcut
Before proceeding, tap the “My Shortcuts” tab in the shortcut app on the ellipse icon (•••) on the “YouTube PiP” shortcut. Then scroll to the bottom and press “Allow access” on the scriptable action card.
In the popup window, press “OK”, then you will see “Run with configuration” on the card. If you click on the “Show more” link, you can inspect the script that the shortcut uses in Scriptable.
Step 4: Play a YouTube video using PiP mode
Now you’re ready to go. Either on the YouTube website in a browser or in the YouTube mobile app, find a video you want to watch in PiP mode. Then open the sharing sheet as usual (eg in Safari, tap the Share icon on the toolbar, not below the video. Click the “Share” button below the video in the YouTube app and then the “More” button, etc.).
In “Share Sheet”, find “YouTube PiP” in the list. To make it easier to access, scroll to the bottom of the list, tap “Edit Actions” and then the plus (+) icon next to “YouTube PiP” to add it to your favorite actions. Hit “Done” and “YouTube PiP” should be one of the first results directly during the stock expansions.
Press “YouTube PiP” and the scriptable app will open immediately. Immediately after it opens, a video player appears and the YouTube video jumps down in the Picture in Picture window. You can adjust the video speed of the player and the quality of some videos, which can be either 360p or 720p. There are also buttons for jumping forward or backward by ten seconds. In previous versions of the shortcut, there was a “Download” button instead of those that skipped.
From here, you can swipe the app to go to your home screen and select another app or use the app switch to jump directly into another app from the script bar. However, the Picture in Picture window continues to play and you can interact with it like any other PiP window in iOS 14.
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