Many consumers have expressed frustration over YouTube’s pushy Premium marketing, which often badgers users with prompts encouraging them to sign up for the service. The company may have taken things to a new level for iPhone users, though, by seemingly disabling their ability to use the system’s picture-in-picture mode unless they pay for the subscription service. Users are, quite understandably, not happy about this change.
As with the iPad before it, iPhone users get access to picture-in-picture viewing with iOS 14, enabling users to watch a video while doing other things on their phone, such as texting or playing a game. Similar functionality is available on Mac computers, as well as on certain Android smartphones — it is, arguably, a basic feature given how large and high-resolution modern mobile displays are.
However, YouTube has seemingly made the controversial decision to block the iOS 14 picture-in-picture mode for free users, forcing them to upgrade to the Premium subscription if they want access to this particular functionality. As first spied by The Verge, a demonstration of this change is available in the video below:
The change seems to apply to the Safari mobile browser on iPhone; when users launch the PiP feature, the video pops out of the player, but then quickly gets sucked back into the YouTube web page, forcing users to watch it in the browser. This is a bit odd, however, as embedded videos still support the PiP playback.
Troubling, however, is the fact that this change wasn’t previously present in iOS 14 nor does it seem to apply to those who pay for the YouTube Premium subscription. This tosses a bit of mystery into the mix, as the PiP mode still works for all YouTube users on the iPad, making it unclear whether this is a bug or a deliberate change to further push Premium on consumers.