YouTube TV is catching up to other streaming apps including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Prime Video and others by finally adding support for picture-in-picture on iOS devices running iOS 15 or higher. First introduced to iPad users with iOS 13 then to iPhone with iOS 14 in 2020, YouTube has been slow to adopt this now standard functionality that allows users to stream videos in a small, floating miniplayer on their homescreen while multitasking on their device.
To try out the new functionality with the YouTube TV streaming service, users first select a title they want to play then swipe up from the bottom of the screen to enable the picture-in-picture mode, the company explained in a tweet announcing the news on Wednesday. YouTube said the feature was “slowly rolling out,” so not all users may see the option immediately.
iPhone & iPad users 🔊 We’re happy to share that picture-in-picture is now rolling out to your iOS 15+ devices. Simply select a video to watch and swipe ⬆️ from the bottom of the screen to return to the device’s homepage. The video can scale down and move across your screen. — YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) March 30, 2022
Users have been frustrated that YouTube has taken so long to implement this now-basic functionality. There is some speculation that this delay has to do with how the YouTube player on iOS has been designed for serving and tracking ads — a core aspect of YouTube’s business and one which some other streamers — like Netflix and Amazon — wouldn’t have to contend with.
This seems like a probable explanation, given that YouTube didn’t simply add the option for picture-in-picture (PiP) as other video apps have done, but rather has been “testing” the feature since last August with Premium subscribers as part of its YouTube “experiments.” In 2020, YouTube had made opting into tests of upcoming features called “experiments” a perk for its Premium subscribers. Last year, YouTube began testing PiP on the iOS YouTube app with subscribers in the U.S. Now, according to YouTube’s experiments website, those tests continue. On the site today, YouTube says the current test will be available until April 8.
Unfortunately, that test’s end date may not mean YouTube will add PiP support on iOS shortly thereafter. Pushed for some sort of sense as to when YouTube users would be able to access this feature, a spokesperson told TechCrunch the company aims to make PiP support available to all YouTube users on iOS — including both free users and Premium subscribers — in the “coming months.” Sigh.