YouTube’s website now blocks iOS 14’s picture-in-picture mode unless you pay for Premium

One of iOS 14’s big new features is picture-in-picture mode, which lets you watch a video in a small window while you’re doing other things on your iPhone. That could be handy if you, say, wanted to watch a YouTube video in Safari while chatting with your friends or checking email. But unfortunately, it seems YouTube has done something to stop videos from continuing to play when PIP mode is activated — unless you pay for YouTube Premium, that is.

See for yourself. Pull up a video on YouTube’s website in Safari on your iPhone and take it full screen. If you tap to pull up playback controls, you should see a picture-in-picture icon in the top-left corner of your screen. Tap that, and the video briefly goes into its own window before returning to its usual spot on YouTube’s site. And if you try to go back to your home screen while watching a video in full screen, you’ll see that it briefly flickers into picture-in-picture mode before disappearing.

Interestingly, as observed by MacRumors, you can watch YouTube videos in picture-in-picture mode if they’re embedded on a website. And if you have YouTube Premium, picture-in-picture works as expected. But it’s not functioning properly if you’re a free user. This wasn’t the case as recently as yesterday, according to MacRumors, and I remember it working on the iOS 14 betas ahead of the software’s official release this week.

Picture-in-picture mode still works with YouTube videos in Safari if you’re using an iPad, regardless of whether you’ve got a free or Premium account.

It’s unclear if this is a bug or if YouTube removed the functionality intentionally. For its own app, YouTube limits the ability to play videos in the background to YouTube Premium subscribers. It seems plausible that YouTube wants to restrict picture-in-picture to its paying subscribers.

Google and Apple have not replied to a request for comment.

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