YouTube on mobile has never been an ideal experience. Unlike watching YouTube on a computer, where you have the flexibility to leave videos playing in the background, YouTube on mobile is usually locked to the app or website you’re using to view it. And if you want all the bells and whistles—such as ad-free streaming—you need to pay up for YouTube Premium no matter what device you’re using. That is, unless you go another route.
Introducing Vinegar ($1.99 on the App Store), the YouTube extension you didn’t know you needed. Developed by And a Dinosaur, the extension works for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and fixes many major problems with the video streaming service.
The most immediate, visible, welcome act Vinegar performs is removing in-video ads. While ads are essential source of income for many content creators on YouTube, they are also frustrating, aggressive, and, often, targeted. While you have been able to deal with ads using one of many available ad blockers, Vinegar conveniently has that functionality built-in.
Speaking of which, Vinegar also stops YouTube from tracking your play, pause, and seek activities. If, after reading that sentence, you’re thinking “um, YouTube tracks my play, pause, and seek activities?” you’re not alone. I assume many of us didn’t know that, and are not necessarily surprised, but nevertheless dismayed by YouTube and Google’s creepy spying.
This extension also brings picture-in-picture back to mobile YouTube. The service typically restricts picture-in-picture on iOS to YouTube Premium users only, even if you use the web version of YouTube on Safari. Vinegar gets around that, allowing you to keep your YouTube window hanging around as you navigate to other apps.
My favorite feature? Vinegar also lets you go audio-only, as it will allow videos to continue to play even when Safari is in the background. That means you can finally listen to music on YouTube while going about your day, or feel free to switch between apps quickly without needing to pause your video’s audio. It’s as close as we’re likely to get to replicating the experience of watching YouTube on a computer.
While you can jump between Safari tabs and keep the video playing, you can’t simply switch apps or lock your phone and expect the playback to continue; you’ll need to choose “Audio” from the right-most side of the video quality options along the top of the playback window for that to work.
Yes. Just one, at this time, though: Unfortunately, there’s no 4K or HDR support when using Vinegar. Depending on your device, that might not be a deal-breaker, since non-4K device top out at 1080p on YouTube anyway. However, for Mac or compatible iPhones and iPads, it’s a bummer. Hopefully, And a Dinosaur brings support for 4K HDR in the future.
You can download Vinegar on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad App Stores for a one-time fee of $1.99. That is one-sixth the cost of one month of YouTube Premium, which seems like a pretty good deal: