This article was first published in 2013 and has been updated in May 2017
I’m normally pretty frugal with my mobile data, but when I got a fancy new contract with a 7GB data limit, I got careless. I got into the habit of listening to long music videos, talks, DJ sets and so on on YouTube, then just putting my phone in my pocket. Last month, just a week after my data allowance reset for the new month, I’d crossed the 7GB threshold, and I blame it all on YouTube.
Another problem with listening to stuff on YouTube is that you have to leave the screen on, which is both a pain and a battery drain (pardon the rhyme).
Luckily, there’s a solution for this for Android users (outside of being organized and pre-loading stuff you want to watch/listen to on YouTube Go). It comes in the form of an excellent app called FireTube which lets you listen to YouTube videos without the video, slashing significantly that data and battery usage.
Download and Install FireTube
FireTube is not available on the Play Store, so here’s how to get your hands on it and set yourself up for video-free YouTube listening.
First, you’ll need to download the FireTube APK on your Android device. Use this link to download the latest version of FireTube (1.4.2) at the time of writing. To download the app, you may need to enable unknown sources on your phone. To do this, go to “Settings -> Security” and switch on the slider for “Unknown sources.”
Note: if you are are likely to install the APK file from an unknown source, you can use NVISO ApkScan or AndroTotal to scan the APK file first before installing.
Once the APK has downloaded, open it and follow the instructions to install it.
Next, open FireTube, and you’ll be presented with a YouTube-like interface showing you a bunch of Hot Tracks. Despite its music-focused presentation where tapping the search button prompts you to type in song or artist names, you can actually search for any video on YouTube and listen to it without the video.
How to Listen to YouTube without Video
Now, for the crucial part. You may have noticed that by default FireTube plays YouTube videos with the video which kind of defeats the point. But don’t worry because switching it all off is easy.
Just go to Settings in FireTube, then untick the box for “Always Video Mode.” Videos will now just play as audio with a thumbnail image of the video on the screen.
In the Settings screen you can also choose the default media player app for the stuff you play, which it’ll switch to when you leave FireTube and continue using your device with music in the background.
And there you have it: a nice and simple way to overcome the triple-headed problem of listening to YouTube in the background on your device, without video, and with your screen turned off. Naturally, Google isn’t a big fan of FireTube because it works around a problem that Google charges money to solve themselves (YouTube Red), but that needn’t concern you. If you’re in the Google ecosystem, then rest easy knowing that Google profits plenty from your data already!