It's finally on its way, folks. YouTube will allow iOS free users to keep consuming content in the background — at least, kind of.
It comes in the form of a picture-in-picture (PIP) feature, where you'll be able to exit the YouTube app and still have your video play in a smaller screen that remains on the screen. This is different from the previous minimize feature, where users can make their current video play in a smaller screen but only while they're still browsing within the YouTube app.
There is a catch, of course. According to MacRumors, the PIP feature is coming to Premium subscribers first (it's currently rolling out). But YouTube does promise that the feature will be available to all users, paying or not, sometime soon.
What particularly excites me about PIP, as a non-paying YouTube user, is the fact that I'll be able to use it as a slight workaround to streaming music for free. Currently, only YouTube Premium subscribers can stream music from YouTube with Background Play, which allows you to close the app and still hear the audio, even while the screen is completely off.
Now, this workaround won't be perfect: PIP will only make the screen smaller, not completely close the app to play music in the background. So you'd have to use your phone around the small screen, but that doesn't seem so bad.
What's more annoying would be the battery drain and data usage concerns. Keeping the video running, even in a small screen, would definitely run down an iPhone's battery quickly. And if you're doing that while somewhere without WiFi, your data bill will rack up just as fast. You would also have to turn off any Power Save settings, and the always on screen probably wouldn't play too well with the inside of a pocket.
Like I said, it's not perfect, but I'd be willing to put up with it. I use YouTube to watch specific things like vloggers, tutorials, and sometimes celeb interviews, which, very often, I can only find there. I'm a pretty auditory learner, so I like to listen to these videos pretty closely but watch much less intensely. And mostly, I'm easily distracted, so I would love to have my preferred videos play while I'm doing other things on my phone, all without having to subscribe to YouTube Premium.
In reality, I don't usually want to stream music from YouTube all that often, but I love that PIP sorta gives me the ability to. Ultimately, I am pumped to bop around different apps while still half-heartedly watching a vlog. Another way to develop my phone addiction, just what I needed!