The YouTube mobile app for Android and iOS is nice and straightforward, providing entertainment to millions of users every day. But it has a few handy features that you may not know about, yet might find very useful. We’ll tell you about those and what they can do for you! Welcome to our YouTube app tips and tricks!
Turn off autoplay
Perhaps the most annoying (and it’s on-by-default!) YouTube feature is autopay, which has the sole purpose of keeping you on YouTube for as long as possible by automatically playing another video you may like once you’re done watching your current one.
To turn off autoplay, open the YouTube app, tap on your user icon in the top right corner, then tap “Settings”, “Autoplay” and untick “Autoplay next video”.
This way once your videos are done playing, you’ll have the option of choosing what to watch next, instead of YouTube immediately choosing for you. You’ll also have a chance to check out the comment section of the video you just watched and engage with it. Or simply take a break from watching YouTube videos instead of being sucked down the rabbit hole.
Change the double-tap to seek duration
While watching YouTube videos, you can quickly skip forward or backward by double-tapping the right or left portion of the video respectively. Normally double-tap to seek is set to 10 seconds, meaning you’ll skip ahead or rewind that long, but you can change it from anywhere between 5 seconds and 60.
To change the double-tap to seek duration, open the YouTube app and tap on your user icon in the top right corner. Then tap on “Settings”, “General” and “Double-tap to seek”. From here you can make the double-tap to seek gesture jump a whole minute ahead, or be as short as 5 seconds, as mentioned earlier.
Stream YouTube videos in higher quality or save your mobile data by streaming in lower quality
By default YouTube automatically decides the resolution videos will be played on your phone in, based on its own display resolution, your internet speed and other factors. However, you can set the YouTube app to always stream in the highest possible resolution, or alternatively, stream in a lower resolution if you’re trying to save up your mobile data usage.
Tap your user icon in the top right corner while in YouTube app, then tap “Settings” and “Video quality preferences”.
From here you can set your streaming to “Higher picture quality”, which will eat up more data but is fine if you’re on Wi-Fi and it’s fast enough.
Alternatively, you can set your mobile network streaming quality to “Data saver”, which will reduce the quality of YouTube videos but also reduce your mobile data usage.
The pinch-to-zoom gesture makes videos fill your phone’s screen, no black borders
I know, most of you know this, but there’s a good chance someone doesn’t, and it’s too big a feature to not even mention.
When you’re watching a YouTube video in fullscreen on your smartphone, do a pinch-out gesture with two fingers to make said video fit to your phone’s screen, removing any black borders. Do a pinch-in gesture to revert to the default way videos play on your phone, if you don’t want them getting cropped.
Note that while this feature works on most modern smartphones, it may still be unavailable on some phones and tablets.
Make YouTube pinch-to-zoom every video automatically
You can actually force YouTube videos to be zoomed to fill the screen by default, if you often find yourself doing the pinch-to-zoom gesture.
Open the YouTube app, tap your user icon on the top right, then tap “Settings”, “General” and “Zoom to fill screen”.
Watch a YouTube video in split-view with another app
The YouTube app doesn’t play in the background unless you have a YouTube Premium membership. So if you’re watching something on YouTube, or listening to a podcast or a song, you’re forced to stay inside the YouTube app, as switching to another app will pause the playback.
However, there’s a simple and free workaround on Android, and that is to enable split-screen. On most modern Android phones, to open split-screen you need to enter your recent apps screen, press and hold the YouTube app icon, then tap “Split screen”.
Now you can launch a second app while YouTube continues to play, such as the Chrome internet browser. You can resize the YouTube window to be about as big as its video player, so it takes as little screen space as Android allows. To resize a split-screen window, on most Android phones you simply need to press the little white line between the two open apps, then drag it up an inch or two and release.
Enable captions if you need to watch YouTube videos without the sound on, if your phone’s speaker is busted or you’re hearing impaired
You’re in a crowded area and you want to watch some YouTube videos, but you didn’t bring headphones. Well, there’s still a way to know what your favorite YouTubers are saying even without the sound on!
Open the YouTube app and tap your user icon in the top right corner of the screen, then tap “Settings” and “Captions”.
From here you can enable for all YouTube videos to be played with (usually) automated captions. Those are available in many different languages and can be resized from this same menu to be either tiny or huge. Via the “Caption style” option you can also change the color of your subtitles, if the default white text on a black background look doesn’t suit you.
Once the “Use captions” setting has been enabled, you’ll see a new button in the YouTube video player, marked [CC]. When you tap it while watching any video, closed captions will be enabled.
Turn on Incognito mode to see what’s generally trending on YouTube instead of videos based on your watch history or location, and of course, to watch videos incognito
Tap on your user icon in the top right corner, then tap “Turn on Incognito”. When Incognito is on, the videos you watch next won’t be recorded in your history, nor will they affect what gets recommended to you when you turn Incognito off. As YouTube puts it:
See how much YouTube you or your kids have been watching, enable a break time reminder, or even a bedtime reminder
Although YouTube’s autoplay being on by default doesn’t exactly signify that the platform wants you to cut back on it, it still gives you the opportunity to limit your watch time. Or your kids’ watch time, you can even set a bedtime reminder.
Open YouTube, tap your user icon on the top right of the screen, then tap “Time watched”.
From here you can see the user’s watch history in terms of hours spent on YouTube in the past 7 days. You can also access tools to manage your YouTube time, such as a reminder to take a break after a certain amount of time spent watching videos. You can also set a bedtime reminder to let you know it’s time to put down the phone and have some rest.
Get a YouTube Premium membership to watch videos without ads, download YouTube videos and play videos in the background
Tap on your user icon on the top left of the YouTube app, then tap “Get YouTube Premium”. Your YouTube Premium subscription will start with a free trial, after which it’s $11.99 per month. You can cancel the subscription near the end of your trial (or anytime) if you change your mind.
Advantages of YouTube Premium include the ability to watch YouTube without ads and play videos in the background while inside other apps. You’ll also be able to download YouTube videos for watching offline, for example while on a plane or a camping trip. YouTube Premium also includes YouTube Music Premium, with which you can listen to music without ads also, even offline.
Note: There are apps or services that claim to do pretty much everything listed above for free, but that potentially comes with the cost of your security and privacy. Not to mention that some such apps and services may be breaking YouTube’s Terms of Service, which is why it’s best to avoid those and consider a YouTube Premium subscription instead.
Where to download the YouTube app
Although Android smartphones in the west come preloaded with Google apps, including YouTube, if for whatever reason you don’t have the YouTube app, you can download it from the Google Play Store here: Android YouTube app download. If your smartphone was made for the Chinese market, getting Google Play on it could prove challenging, however.