August 19, 2022

Two years after the feature was made available to third-party developers on iPhones and seven years after it came to iPad, Google announced it will now roll out picture-in-picture viewing for the YouTube iOS and iPadOS app.

Google says picture-in-picture capability will roll out gradually, though it didn’t name a time frame. However, it clarified that the feature’s availability would vary based on Premium subscriber status and location. Globally, picture-in-picture capability will work for anyone with a YouTube Premium subscription and any video. Users in the US who don’t have YouTube Premium will also be able to take advantage of picture-in-picture, but only for what Google deems non-music content.

That limitation is likely to keep users from simply listening to music in the background on their devices via a free YouTube account instead of subscribing to the company’s music offerings. While picture-in-picture is new, background audio (including for music) for currently playing videos has long been a cornerstone of the YouTube Premium service.

Picture-in-picture was introduced to iPhones in iOS 14, which was released in 2020, but on the iPad it dates back to 2015’s iOS 9. Since its introduction on the iPhone, the feature has made its way into most well-supported video playback apps on the platform, leaving YouTube as an odd one out.

Google announced last summer that it would begin testing the feature with YouTube Premium members who opt in, and that test period concluded in April. The company hadn’t said a word about it between then and now. Android users have had access to YouTube picture-in-picture for years.

For what it’s worth, the community support post by Google that announced this new rollout acknowledged the slow pacing, saying:

We recognize this has been a slow roll out for a highly requested feature, and want to thank everyone who shared feedback during experiments (including recently on youtube.com/new), and waited patiently for this moment!

That said, this is not the first time iPhone and iPad users have received important features of Google apps like YouTube or Google Maps much, much later than Android users.

As with other apps using iOS’s native picture-in-picture capability, you simply need to start playing a video, then swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or hit the home button on older iPhone designs) to leave the app. The video should continue playing in a movable, resizable, hovering window as you navigate the home screen or other apps on your device.

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