The official YouTube app works mostly as advertised but it still lacks many important features that users care about, such as background play and the ability to download videos. Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for the incomplete YouTube experience when watching videos on your mobile, as there are several alternatives that can fulfill your needs for free. To help you figure out which one to use, we’ve listed some of the best third-party YouTube apps for mobile you should try.
Of all the third-party YouTube apps out there, YMusic (Android) is probably the most accurate at mimicking that YouTube experience (its default color scheme is green, but you can change this to red — something more reminiscent of old YouTube).
In the “Discover” section, you’ll have access to YouTube, from where you can search YouTube using the button at the top right corner, or browse via the categories of Home, Music, Recommended, Your Top Tracks and Library, where you can access your playlists, your YouTube channel (if you have one) etc.
One of the great features of YMusic is that you can listen to music and videos in the background, without having to stay in the app or leaving your screen on. You can also download videos as audio files by tapping the three-dotted menu icon next to a given video then selecting your Download option.
We also appreciate the feature to listen to locally download music, podcasts, whatever you like by tapping the menu at the top left then selecting “Library.”
As you can imagine, Google isn’t too fond of YMusic so you’ll need to download it from its own site. Once you have the app, you will get internal notifications when you can update it.
You won’t find NewPipe (Android) in the Google Play Store either. You can get it from F-Droid instead, which is a website dedicated to free and open-source software. Since NewPipe doesn’t rely on any Google framework libraries or the YouTube API and only parses the website to get the information it needs, the app will work on devices without Google Services installed, such as newer Huawei devices.
The app sports a minimal, ad-free interface that allows you to watch videos and save them or play them in the background with the screen off. You can instruct videos to play at your preferred quality and use the built-in picture-in-picture mode, which is quite handy when you want to watch a video and perform another task at the same time.
You don’t need a YouTube account to use this app, but you can still subscribe to channels as usual or import your existing subscriptions after exporting them via the YouTube website.
iTube (Android | iOS) is another worthy YouTube alternative. While it does not offer the option to save videos, it does boast a clean interface that makes listening to your favorite tracks a breeze. The app offers the possibility to adjust the bass and treble for every track, and it can play video in the background. What’s more, iTube can bring up the lyrics of the song you’re viewing.
You can log in with your account in iTube and create and edit playlists. The app also offers access to a list of curated playlists based on different music genres, so whenever you need inspiration, iTube has your back. Another highlight of using iTube is that videos aren’t interrupted by annoying ads.
For those on iOS, YouTube++(iOS) can enhance your YouTube viewing habit. The app lets you block intrusive ads and includes the much coveted play in the background option.
Those who download the app, which is not listed in the official app store by the way, will be able to also set video playback speed (0.5x – 2.0x), disable age restrictions and more.
5. YouTube Go
Strictly speaking, YouTube Go (Android | iOS) cannot be counted as a third party app as it is still developed by Google, but this light version of the YouTube app is still useful for users with devices with low memory and on limited data plans. However, keep in mind that this app is only available in a limited number of regions, so you may have to download the APK if you wish to take it for a spin.
What makes YouTube Go a great choice is that it allows you to choose how many megabytes of bandwidth you want to spend when watching a video. If you’re looking for ways to reduce your data plan usage, using the YouTube Go app may be what you’re looking for.
Other than that, this YouTube app lets you log in with your account and save videos for later viewing. YouTube’s lightweight version is built so that it can function seamlessly, even on low Internet connections. One thing of note, though, is that you won’t escape the annoying ads if you go ahead and decide to use this app.
SongTube (Android) is another viable open source alternative for YouTube. You can find its code on GitHub. It boasts a nice-looking clean interface and offers quite a lot of features. It lets users download videos and audios, as well as playlists.
SongTube is ad free like one would expect, but you won’t be able to log in with your Google account and access your YouTube history since the app is Google services free. Overall the app offers a clean experience you’ll definitely enjoy.
For those using mobile data for music, SongTube has a nice feature which lets your turn the video off and plays only the song for you. It’s available in the music player window.
LiberTube (Android) is a new YouTube alternative that uses Piped (a YouTube front-end website), and so will never connect to Google’s servers directly. Even though the app is still in beta, some of the features that most users are looking for when switching to an YouTube alternative are available. These include watching ad-free videos, downloading clips, and choosing the format during playback.
Given that the app is completely open source, new features are bound to be added soon enough, like the Library one which already shows up in the app but is not functional yet. It’s not possible to log in to LiberTube with your Google account either, but you can create an account on the app so that you can subscribe to channels.
8. Brave Browser
This method is worth checking out, because you’ll be able to log into your account and have access to a purer YouTube-like experience. You can even enable “Desktop site” mode. However, you won’t be able to do things like play music with your phone’s screen off natively.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why aren’t there more alternative YouTube apps for iOS users?
Google does not approve of such YouTube alternatives, so many have been removed from the App Store. As for the remaining crop, most have garnered sub-par ratings from users. (Using modified YouTube versions is against YouTube’s Terms of Service, and so you won’t find these apps on the Google Play Store either.)
Also, developers creating YouTube alternatives tend to target the Android ecosystem rather than Apple’s, which is less permissive.
2. How do I install an open-source Android app or APK?
If it’s your first time downloading an app from F-Droid we have you covered with this guide that shows you how to use the alternative marketplace. On the other hand, if you have an APK, here’s how to install apps from outside the Play Store.
3. Why isn’t YouTube Vanced on the list?
In March 2022, Vanced was discontinued due to pressure from Google. The app’s developers received a cease and desist order, prompting them to take Vanced offline.
Even so, note that for those who already have the app installed on their device, Vanced still works. However, you can’t download Vanced Manager anymore from the official website. It’s still possible to get it as an APK file from various websites, although Play Protects now flags the app as harmful and will display a warning.
The current Vanced version will keep on working for a while, since it’s based on a recent version of YouTube, but that won’t be the case forever. Google will eventually make changes to its YouTube platform, and so some Vanced features you used to rely on will inevitably break down and you’ll have to switch to a YouTube Vanced alternative.
Image credit: Unsplash
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