How to download YouTube videos on an iPhone or iPad

It may seem like a daunting task since Google doesn’t make it easy, but it is possible to download YouTube videos to your iPhone or iPad for viewing any time — even when you’re offline. From YouTube’s own Premium subscription plan to third-party apps, there are several ways to save your favorite YouTube videos to your iOS device. Whether you simply want to watch videos without an internet connection or keep some choice picks for posterity, we’ll walk you through some of the easiest methods for downloading YouTube videos to your iPhone.

To be clear, downloading videos from YouTube using unofficial methods like third-party apps is a violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service. That doesn’t necessarily make it illegal — that’s a murkier area — but it’s something that could get you banned from YouTube. Google doesn’t seem to care much about enforcing this on an individual basis, especially for casual downloaders, but the company does occasionally play a cat-and-mouse game to try and hamper third-party apps that are designed for this purpose.

While all the third-party solutions described in this article work as of this writing, that’s not guaranteed always to be the case. When looking for a third-party app to download YouTube videos to your iPhone, we recommend you try to pick one that’s well-rated and regularly maintained by its developer. This makes it more likely that you’ll get quick fixes to stay ahead of any changes that Google makes to YouTube.

Two iPhones showing YouTube Premium sign-up.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

How to download YouTube videos with YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium is a subscription service that, among other things, lets you download videos to your smartphone directly inside the YouTube app. This will set you back around $12 per month unless you qualify for the $7/month student plan. There’s also a family plan you can share with up to six members of your household for a single $23 monthly subscription — as long as they’re all members of your Google family group.

It’s the most seamless way to download videos for offline viewing, and best of all, it’s Google-approved, so there are no legal grey areas here. Of course, there is a catch. For one thing, the maximum resolution you’ll be able to download in the YouTube iOS app is 1080p. Further, you don’t really get to keep those videos; the download feature in YouTube Premium is intended solely to let you download videos to watch when you have little or no network connectivity, or you’d rather not use more expensive cellular data. You can’t save those videos outside of the YouTube app, and they’re tied both to your YouTube Premium subscription and the original content. That means those downloaded videos will go away if you cancel YouTube Premium or if the original video gets removed from YouTube.

Still, if watching offline is your main reason for wanting to download YouTube videos to your iPhone, then YouTube Premium is the fastest and best way to do this. Not only does it work right inside the YouTube app at the push of a button, but you can even take advantage of YouTube’s Smart Downloads feature to keep a cache of interesting videos ready for offline viewing.

If you’ve never signed up before, you can try YouTube Premium free for one month through the link below. You can also sign up through the iOS YouTube app, but we don’t recommend that as Google charges around 30% more on the App Store to account for Apple’s additional fees — an individual subscription through the YouTube app costs $16, while you can get the same plan directly from Google for $12.

YouTube Premium

Step 1: Once you’ve subscribed to YouTube Premium, open a video that you would like to download for offline viewing.

iPhone showing a YouTube Premium video download.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 2: Select the Download button below the video. It will immediately begin downloading in the default resolution. A checkmark will appear once the video has finished downloading.

Step 3: To change the resolution that downloaded videos are stored in, select your profile picture or icon in the top-right corner of the main screen of the YouTube app and then select Settings > Background & downloads > Download quality.

From this screen, you can also see how much storage your downloads are using and adjust other settings related to smart downloads.

How to download YouTube videos using an iPhone or iPad app

If you want to download YouTube videos in a more permanent form, you’ll need to resort to third-party tools. A search of the App Store will turn up a number of iPhone and iPad apps that can do this for you, but be sure to read the fine print; many of these are free to download but require in-app purchases or subscriptions to unlock their full capabilities.

One option that’s worth a look is Offline. This is an entirely free app with no hidden costs. Instead, it’s lightly ad-supported, and it’s not just for YouTube videos. You can use this to download from Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud. Files can be saved and played right in the app, exported to iCloud, or transferred to your Mac via AirDrop.

Step 1: Download Offline from the App Store and open it.

iPhone showing App Store page for Offline YouTube Downloader app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 2: Select the Browser button from the button bar at the bottom.

iPhone showing browser in Offline YouTuber Downloader app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Select YouTube to go to the YouTube home page or paste a link to a YouTube video in the address bar at the top of the screen.

Step 4: Select a YouTube video that you would like to download.

Step 5: Select Download from the pop-up that appears to begin downloading the video.

Two iPhones showing Offline YouTube Downloader app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 6: Select Downloads in the bottom left corner to view a list of your downloaded videos.

From here, you can tap on the video to watch it in the app or use the standard iOS share sheet to save it to your photo library, iCloud Drive, or any other app installed on your iPhone or iPad.

The biggest catch here is that Offline only saves videos in a maximum resolution of 640×480. That’s not bad for offline viewing on an iPhone, and you can store a lot of videos without taking up too much space. However, it’s not ideal if you want higher-quality videos to show on a bigger screen.

How to download YouTube videos using a third-party app on a computer

If you’re willing to rely on a Mac or PC to fetch YouTube videos for you, then you have more options, as there’s an even bigger collection of apps, both free and paid, that you can use to download YouTube videos. Once you’ve downloaded the video to your laptop or desktop, you can transfer the videos to your iPhone or iPad via iCloud, AirDrop, or a third-party cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox.

While this isn’t strictly downloading to your iPhone, it’s still a good way to get downloaded videos onto your device, so we’ve included it here. Best of all, most of these apps are much more powerful and offer many more options than you’ll find in the iOS apps for downloading YouTube videos. This includes support for higher-resolution video formats.

We chose the free ClipGrab as one example, but any number of downloaders and video converters will download YouTube videos to your desktop, and the following steps will work mostly the same way.

Step 1: After downloading and launching ClipGrab, use the app’s search tab to enter keywords to help you find the videos you want to save. Alternatively, you can select the Downloads tab and paste in the link to a YouTube video directly from your browser.

Step 2: Select an item from the results and use the Format pulldown menu to convert it to MPEG4 format for compatibility with your iPhone or iPad.

Step 3: Make your selection and choose Grab This Clip.

Step 4: Choose a name and destination for the saved video file. The video will be converted and downloaded to this location.

Step 5: If you’re a Mac user, one of the quickest and easiest ways to transfer the resulting video to your iPhone or iPad is via AirDrop. Alternatively, iCloud Drive also works for Windows users, provided you have iCloud for Windows installed. If a wireless transfer isn’t an option, you can also plug your device in using a USB cable and transfer files via the Finder app on macOS or iTunes on Windows.

How to download YouTube videos by recording your screen

Another method is to simply record your iPhone or iPad screen and anything playing on it — including YouTube videos. As long as you’re running iOS 11 or later (and you really should be, as it was released in 2017), your iPhone and iPad have a built-in screen recording feature. It’s a bit cumbersome as you have to play the entire video in real-time, but the upside is that it’s free and easy to use.

Just remember that, as the name implies, a screen recording will capture everything that’s happening on your screen — not just the YouTube video. So, if you want a clean recording, you’ll need to be careful not to do anything that might bring up on-screen controls, such as tapping the screen or even adjusting the volume with the side buttons.

Step 1: Pull the video up on YouTube. You can do this in the Safari browser or the YouTube app.

Step 2: Position your iPhone or iPad in landscape orientation.

Step 3: Swipe down from the top-right corner to bring up the Control Center (on the iPhone SE, iPhone 8, and older models equipped with a home button, you’ll need to swipe up from the bottom instead).

iPhone showing Control Center with Screen Recording button.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: From Control Center, select the Record button (a filled circle inside a circle)

Step 5: Swipe up to dismiss the Control Center.

Step 6: After a three-second countdown, your device will begin recording whatever is on the screen. A red indicator will appear in the status bar or Dynamic Island to indicate that a recording is in progress.

Step 7: Begin playing your YouTube video. When finished, select the recording indicator in the status bar or Dynamic Island to stop recording or pull down the Control Center again and select the Record button. The video will be saved to your Camera Roll.

Note that with this method, you’re not really downloading the video from YouTube but rather making a recording of it; it’s the digital equivalent of pointing a video camera at your monitor. The resulting video file will be in the same resolution as your iPhone screen, and it will include any black bars on the top or the sides, as well as your actions starting and stopping the screen recording session at the beginning and end. However, you can easily edit the video in the Photos app if you’d like to trim out those parts.

iPhone showing screen recorded video of Tim Cook and Steve Jobs.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Downloading a video from YouTube doesn’t seem like a big deal at first glance, but it comes with ethical concerns to consider, depending on the original post’s intent. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s something Google definitely doesn’t want you doing — it’s a clear violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service, but it’s even more important to keep the original content creators in mind.

Some people and companies post videos to share content, but others are trying to generate income. Videographers, for example, often earn a cut of ad revenue. Ads playing before and after your videos and popping up at the bottom of videos you’re watching may be annoying, but that’s how content creators make money. If you download videos to play offline, that video doesn’t earn ad income, so you’re effectively taking money away from that content creator. The creator also loses out on multiple views from you as the audience.

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