iPhone users are getting this cool free iOS YouTube upgrade

Sometimes tech moves incredibly quickly. Not here: we've been waiting for this upgrade for years

YouTube app running on iOS on an iPhone
(Image credit: Unsplash)

A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Google made a promise. "We promise to bring Picture in Picture to the iOS YouTube app really soon!" it said. The dinosaurs died out, civilisations rose and fell and nu-metal became briefly popular for some reason. But there was still no PiP on iOS, and that made owners of the best iPhones sad...

But now there is!

Writing on the official YouTube blog, Hazel from Team YouTube posted that "Picture-in-Picture (PiP) is now rolling out to iPhone and iPad devices (running iOS and iPadOS 15.0 or higher) over the next several days. We recognise this has been a slow roll out for a highly requested feature." You'll now be able to swipe up from the bottom of the screen while in YouTube and the video will continue to play in a moveable mini-player.

Before you celebrate and just go Picture in Picture crazy, there is a catch. 

Google YouTube picture in picture demo on iOS for iPhone

(Image credit: Google)

How to get Picture in Picture in the YouTube iOS app

If you're a free user, you'll get the new feature – but only if you live in the US where "everyone using the YouTube app on iPhone and iPadOS will have access to PiP for non-music content." If you want PiP for music too, you'll need to be a Premium subscriber.

You'll also need to be a Premium subscriber if you want the Picture in Picture feature anywhere else in the world. There's no indication that Google intends to roll out the feature to non-US non-subscribers.

It's also important to note that this is purely for the YouTube app: while iOS supports Picture in Picture in apps such as Safari, YouTube videos in Safari use some technological trickery to prevent you from going PiP. This is very annoying and seems set to continue, although there are some third party extensions that can override it. I understand why Google does it – it's to prevent piracy – but like most such things it doesn't stop the pirates but it does make everyday browsing that little bit more irritating.

The new YouTube PiP feature is rolling out to Premium subscribers and US non-subscribers over the next seven days.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).