How to play YouTube videos in the background on your Android smartphone without rooting

Rooting, that is allowing applications installed on an Android device to have higher access privileges to the system, is the gateway to everything magical about Android. Including doing what is currently impossible by most ordinary standards: continue playing YouTube content long after exiting the YouTube application.

Android users who have rooted their devices can simply resort to one of the many available options like installing a module if they have the Xposed framework installed and set up on their device. That is the long and complicated route, though. In 2017, there are far less compelling reasons for one to root their Android device. Least of all just to be able to play Shape of You from YouTube while doing something else on the phone/tablet.

So now, what to do?

Easy. Use YouTube Red, right? That might work for American Android device users since they can easily access Google’s paid subscriber-only version of YouTube that also lets users listen to YouTube videos in the background. In Kenya, however, there is not even access to Google’s music streaming service let alone YouTube Red and, well, where are those people willing to pay $10 every other month for such, anyway?

So here’s what happens:

1. Use Firefox browser

Yes Mozilla’s browser may not be the darling of many an Android user since Chrome, Google’s own browser, comes pre-installed on pretty much every other Android device, but when it comes to the matter at hand, Firefox proves to be a worthy option or alternative if not something you should really be using day-to-day.

  • Download and install the Firefox browser from the Play Store.
  • Load YouTube.com (or your local version like in our case that would be YouTube.co.ke)
  • Click on any video
  • Exit the browser and go and enjoy your life as you deem fit
  • Done. That’s it. Through a notification on the notification shade, you will be able to pause or resume playback for the entire time the video is playing. What’s more, Firefox will continue playback even after you lock the screen or turn off the display, handy when you have an entire Chainsmokers album to listen to and it’s not yet available on Spotify (which you can’t straight up access in Kenya without going through a few hoops that leave you feeling so good about your geeky self if it’s a first time).
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2. Use Awesome Pop-up Video app

One of the best things about Android is that it allows applications to overlay themselves. To be displayed on top of others. Those are things that our friends from across the fence (iOS) only hear about. Awesome Pop-up Video, like several other apps I have encountered on the Google Play Store, takes advantage of the feature to allow users to play videos anywhere anytime on their Android device thanks to a “floating” window that it opens.

  • Download and install Awesome Pop-up Video from the Play Store.
  • That’s it. That is all you need to do. Now open the app, go forth and prosper. From the app, you can, by default search for any video on YouTube, click on it and go on about your business. The media player window will just float wherever you are. On the home screen? It will be there. Arranging your poorly-performing Fantasy Premier League team? It will be there. You will, simply, never walk alone, again. LOL.
You can track your team’s 6th place status as you listen to comforting music from YouTube without having to be forced to pick one over the other

The only downside? It won’t continue playing when you turn off your Android device’s screen. However, it does cement its background credentials (since what it really does most of the time is put videos on the fore with tiny floating pop-ups) by letting users do this:

Continue video playback even when the screen is locked

There are so many other applications that offer to do exactly what Awesome Pop-up Video does but none is as good. If you have one that has constantly worked for you, please share. Firefox? It’s pretty damn reliable, as of this moment. There is no guarantee the feature will always work in the future but it does at the moment so that you don’t need to download one other app to do just one thing. Just use your browser to do what YouTube won’t let you do with its official app.

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Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com