Aside from the home screen widgets, Picture in Picture Mode is one of the most exciting updates to iPhone running iOS 14. It lets you watch minimized versions of videos across other apps so you can multitask like a pro. However, not every service comes with the new features from Apple. YouTube is the main culprit, but there is a workaround.
Before we begin, the obvious answer to having Picture in Picture working in iOS 14 for YouTube is to subscribe to YouTube Premium. However, since Google cannot charge for an integrated iOS function, even YouTube Premium members cannot use PiP for the YouTube app in other apps. Instead, you have to log into YouTube in Safari or another web browser and use the PiP player from there.
While iOS 1
We’re not exactly happy that Google went to great lengths to avoid implementing an iOS feature in its YouTube app just to get users to pay for a less than ideal experience in a web browser. You’re probably not happy either. However, there is another workaround that works for free YouTube accounts.
The basic workaround for YouTube Picture in Picture
While you can use picture in picture with the YouTube app while using other parts of the YouTube app, it’s not the picture in picture that Apple intended. To watch YouTube videos while using other apps, the basic workaround is to only play YouTube videos in an app other than YouTube or a web 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 directly with your Pocket account using a browser or the YouTube app. You can then play the saved video in the Pocket app and use the PiP mode as it should work on iOS.
An alternative method with shortcuts
If you don’t like having to rely on Pocket or any other app to save YouTube videos so you can play them back later, there is a shortcut you can use to make the whole process a lot more enjoyable. Not only can you instantly play YouTube videos in PiP, but you can also get controls to choose quality, speed and more.
Step 1: Install Scriptable
Before we get to the shortcut, install the free scripting app from the App Store as it is needed in conjunction with the shortcut for real YouTube picture in picture to work. In Scriptable’s own words: “[it’s] An automation tool that allows you to write scripts that are built into iOS native features like files, calendars, reminders, etc. “
Step 2: Install the shortcut
There are many versions of the shortcut floating around the web, but as far as 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 the RoutineHub page, which always has the latest version, or via the iCloud link from version 4.
You may need to tap Get Shortcut to get the app via either link. If the shortcuts show an error message stating that you cannot open them, go to Settings -> Shortcuts, toggle the “Allow Untrusted Shortcuts” switch on, and try again. When the Shortcuts app opens, you can review the entire YouTube PiP workflow before committing. Then tap “Add Untrusted Shortcut” at the bottom to add it to your shortcuts library.
Step 3: Enter the shortcut Scriptable Access
Before proceeding, on the My Shortcuts tab of the Shortcuts app, tap the ellipsis (•••) icon on the YouTube PiP shortcut card. Then scroll down and tap “Allow Access” on the Scriptable Action Card.
Tap “OK” in the pop-up, then “Run with configuration” should appear on the card. If you tap the “Show More” link, you can review the script that uses the shortcut in Scriptable.
Step 4: Play a YouTube video in PiP mode
Now you’re ready to go. Find a video that you want to watch in PiP mode, either on the YouTube website in a browser or on the YouTube mobile app. Next, open the sharing sheet as you normally would (e.g. in Safari, tap the share icon in the toolbar, not below the video; in the YouTube app, click the “Share” button below the video, then click “More.” “. Button; etc.).
On the sharing sheet, find “YouTube PiP” in the list. For easier access, scroll to the bottom of the list, tap Edit Actions, then tap the plus sign (+) next to YouTube PiP to add it to your favorite Actions. Click “Done” and “YouTube PiP” should be one of the first results right under the sharing extensions.
Tap on “YouTube PiP” and the Scriptable app should open immediately. Immediately after opening a video player is displayed and the YouTube video jumps to a picture-in-picture window. You can adjust the speed of the video in the player and the quality of some videos which can be either 360p or 720p. There are also buttons that you can use to skip forward or backward ten seconds. In previous versions of the shortcut, there was a Download button instead of the skipped one.
From here, you can swipe the app away to go to your home screen and select a different app, or use the app switcher to jump straight to another app from Scriptable. Either way, the picture-in-picture window will continue to play and you can interact with it like any other PiP window in iOS 14.
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