Fri. May 20th, 2022

Picture-in-picture is a trick that most of your devices can do, and it means you can keep watching YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, FaceTime or any other video stream while doing something else. How to configure it on your phones, tablets, computers and media streaming gadgets.

Android and iOS

Picture-in-picture on Android.  (Screenshot: Android)Picture-in-picture on Android. (Screenshot: Android)

On newer versions of Android, picture-in-picture works more or less automatically as long as the video app you use has been built to support it. For example, if you start Netflix and start watching something and then return to the Home screen, the video will play in a smaller window in the corner of the screen.

If this does not work for the apps you use, you may need to dig into the app settings or investigate further. With the YouTube app, picture-in-picture mode is enabled only if you are a Premium subscriber, so the mini-player will not appear if you do not pay. In the case of videos played in Google Chrome for Android, first switch the video to full screen mode and then return to the home screen to display the smaller window.

Picture-in-picture on iOS.  (Screenshot: iOS)Picture-in-picture on iOS. (Screenshot: iOS)

Over on iOS and iPadOS, you simply tap the picture-in-picture button on the video playback screen — it is the one that has two rectangles with an arrow indicating that the video size will shrink. This takes you back to the app you were in before the video started, but keeps the video on top.

The picture-in-picture button should appear in every Apple app that plays video and every third-party app that has implemented the feature (which is most of them); it also appears in Safari when you start playing a video in the mobile browser. At the time of writing, YouTube has just started testing picture-in-picture support for iOS and iPadOS, but only for YouTube Premium subscribers.

Windows and macOS

The Mini View button in the Windows Movie & TV app.  (Screenshot: Windows)The Mini View button in the Windows Movie & TV app. (Screenshot: Windows)

Since Windows is based on windows (as the name suggests), it’s not hard to get a video played in the corner of the screen, but there may be times when you want to pin a video on top of everything else and put it in a corner. In the built-in movies and TV app, you can do this by starting playback on a video and then clicking Play in mini view (the third icon from the right in the lower right corner).

There is also a picture-in-picture mode in Microsoft Edge, at least for YouTube: If you right-click twice on a video that is playing, you will see a pop-up menu with Picture in picture on it. This docks the video in the corner and keeps it on top of other windows. In VLC Media Player, meanwhile, you can select View and Always on top to keep a video above everything else, then View and Minimal interface to hide the playback controls – just move the window to the place you need it.

The Picture-in-Picture button in QuickTime on macOS.  (Screenshot: macOS)The Picture-in-Picture button in QuickTime on macOS. (Screenshot: macOS)

It’s a similar story on macOS: You can move any video manually to the corner of the screen, but there are ways to do picture-in-picture correctly. In the main TV app, click on the picture-in-picture icon (this is the one in the lower right corner) with something playing. In QuickTime, you see the same button – two rectangles and an arrow – to the right of the navigation control bar.

Other apps have their own settings that you can dig into to find a picture-in-picture mode, if available: In VLC Media Player for macOS, you can select Video and Float upstairs to hold it over other windows, e.g. then resize it and pull it into place. In Safari with a YouTube video playing in a browser tab, right-click the video twice and then select Enter picture in picture.

Media Streamers

Picture-in-picture support is not available on many streaming devices.  (Image: Google)Picture-in-picture support is not available on many streaming devices. (Image: Google)

Picture-in-picture is not widely available on streaming dongles and set-top boxes-you can e.g. Do not do this with the new Chromecast with Google TV or with anything made by Roku. If your optional media streamer does not offer it, check the options on your TV as it may be available there (if you have more than one input available at the same time).

However, the feature is available on Apple TV: It works with the main TV app and third-party apps that have decided to enable it. If you press your remote control to view the playback controls while watching a video, you will see the same picture-in-picture button (two rectangles and an arrow) that you get on iOS, iPadOS and macOS. Select this to place the video in a smaller window.

AirPlay is a way to get picture-in-picture on Apple TV.  (Screenshot: iOS)AirPlay is a way to get picture-in-picture on Apple TV. (Screenshot: iOS)

Another way to make this work is to send a video to Apple TV from your iPhone, iPad or Mac using AirPlay. Once you have selected Apple TV as the destination and made it play, you can activate picture-in-picture mode as before. It’s handy for apps that don’t actually support picture-in-picture on the Apple TV itself.

Elsewhere, you’re mostly unsuccessful when it comes to this double-window experience on your media streamer, though some apps offer a limited picture-in-picture experience inside the actual app, so it’s worth checking out. Selected Amazon Fire TV models, however, support picture-in-picture, but only for video feeds that come from compatible security cameras made by e.g. Ring, Nest, Wyze and Logitech.

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