Block Ads and Get Youtube Premium Free!

Youtube is a wonderful platform and its creators deserve to be able to make a living. Many of them actually do by serving Google ads (with Google keeping a significant portion of ad revenue) or, via some Youtube subscription model that was first called Red and now is Premium (this may be inaccurate, I’m not following it closely). If, like me, you dislike a model where Google decides who is worthy of support and who’s not and gets to keep the lion’s share of ad revenue, this article might be for you. If, on the other hand, you have the means to purchase YouTube Premium and don’t have time to waste, go ahead and get it, it’s definitely worth it!

The standard offer for YouTube Premium is one-month free. We encourage you to start with that just to see what you’d be missing should you choose to get the “totally free” route we are presenting below; this route does not provide everything that a real subscription has in store for you, only what’s important. After the first month (again, free), you would pay about $11.99/month; if you’re a student, you can get videos at $6.99/month and music at $4.99/month.

We are also warning you that some of the ways to obtain free services may be illegal in your country – you need to learn and follow the laws of your jurisdiction. You might also want to consider direct donations to the content creators whose videos you watch without ads or download.

The following screenshot summarizes nicely what you get as a student at the aforementioned prices. Additionally, YouTube is known to run other occasional promotions such as 6 months free or the Samsung promo (only 4 months free currently).

All the above are great ways to enjoy the Premium service at a reduced cost. Furthermore, the methods we are showing in this article do not require jailbreaking or Cydia Impactor (for older versions), i.e., though it’s definitely possible to achieve the same ends using jailbreaking and/or rooting, that does not concern this article. Rooting (for Android) is not required for any version and jailbreaking is not required for the aforementioned Impactor (though it may be necessary for newer iOS versions).

We have already mentioned most of this in Smarten-up Your Smartphone, but the feedback we got is that that’s not so easy to follow, which is why we re-iterate and expand upon those ideas here.

fdroid

We have mentioned this repository before, without going into much detail. This is an alternative to the official Google Play store for Android only (so if you are using a different OS, you might want to skip this section).

F-Droid Screenshots for Version 1.0Though most people will find that Google Play better responds to their needs, chiefly because of reviews, which F-droid is not offering, f-droid is a far better option for those of us who occasionally check the code of the apps we install and we trust Google less than a community of developers and prosumers.

Most security experts agree that Google Play hosts far more malware than F-Droid for two reasons:

  • if you spent resources embedding malware in your apps, you want to infect as many people as possible, and Google Play will always have more users than F-Droid or alternatives
  • It is easier for malware to be discovered in open source (F-Droid) than closed-source software (most apps on Google Play)

Recent news reports seem to confirm the above. A search for malware on Google Play and malware on F-Droid turns out no malware for the latter.

This is a prerequisite to getting YouTube Premium features legally (at least in our jurisdiction) and free of charge. This makes it easy and possible to use a number of additional features (and apps) that are not and never will be available through Google Play.

To get it, first you need to install an alternative to Google Play; there are many and I recommend F-Droid. Before downloading the .apk file, you need to enable in Security settings in your phone installation from "Unknown sources". You might also want to read the Wikipedia article on F-Droid which explains how this came about and provides links to alternatives. This 48s video shows it all step-by-step.

You might find that some open source free apps can be found on both F-Droid and Google Play; we recommend using F-Droid for those, as the versions on F-Droid are often free whereas they cost money on Google Play, as it is the case with Termux add-ons. Regardless, be sure to leave a good review on Google Play if you switch to F-Droid so that the developer does not miss on reputation bump for offering it on F-Droid.

With a F-droid installed, you may go ahead and update repositories, then search for and install NewPipe. This will provide all the YouTube Premium features free of charge, with a nice, clean interface, as you can see in our NewPipe screenshots album. As you can see above, this app gives you, in the individual/single video view, the options to Add to playlist, (much like the official app), as well as listen to it in the Background, in a Popup and Download it, all without ads. You can import your subscriptions from any account, start with What’s New or Popular videos and even set up a number of options that are not available even to Premium subscribers.

If you want more features and/or alternatives, read on.

adfree

If you have a laptop or using a browser (such as Chromium) with a device that may qualify as desktop, we recommend the uBlock Origin extension for blocking ads (Chrome, Edge). This will not block ads at the system level, but for most people it is sufficient.

It has been possible to install an ad-blocker at system level in Android or iOS for quite a long time, but it used to require “rooting” or “jailbreaking”, respectively. Not long ago, a new method appeared which creates a “dummy” VPN, forcing all the Internet traffic to go through an app-controlled connection, which allows filtering it without the need for system-level access to the “hosts” file. This method works for all connections, be they Data or Wi-Fi, but uses up more power than the “dns” method below, which uses less power but only works for Wi-Fi connections.

On Android, with F-Droid installed you have the choice of several apps to block ads, such as DNS66 and Blokada (we first used DNS66 and, when it stopped working, switched to Blokada). Using them, you are not only protecting yourself from malvertising, but you can also increase your privacy by changing your default domain name servers. Here’s an explanation from DNS66 which is also valid for Blokada:

DNS66 allows blocking host names via DNS. This can be used for ad blocking. It also allows other DNS servers to be added, for more privacy.

Compared to AdBlock Plus, this works without proxy stuff; and it also does not require root, like AdAway does: DNS66 establishes a VPN interface, and redirects DNS server traffic to it. The VPN interface filters the traffic, only allowing queries for hosts that are not blacklisted.

A host (list) can be configured as allow, deny, or ignore. A later entry in the list overrides a previous entry.

Custom DNS Servers can be configured as well, using the same UI, but no differentiation is made between ignored and denied servers.

We recommend switching to Cloudflare DNS (1.1.1.1) if you are on Data and using “dummy VPN app” for reliability and privacy reasons. If you are on Wi-Fi, please see the “dns” section below.

Other ad-blocking software includes AdClear (not on F-droid for the moment), AdGuard (closed source but open lists you can use elsewhere), BlockThis (may have been the first but not sure if still maintained by Mr Georgiev).

There are also a few apps on Google Play, but they tend to be inadequate in one way or the other and don’t block ads at system level (if they were as good as the above, Google would ban them): Firefox Focus, DroidWall, AdBlock Browser, AdBlocker Browser, CM Browser. These apps will not block ads in other apps and cannot prevent malvertising infections, unless you use them exclusively.

Similar apps that for some reason are not on Google Play, but offer reduced functionality, like those apps, are Ad-Vanish and Bromite. We do not recommend them.

On iOS, you can get DNSCloack from iTunes, then choose the pre-defined “adguard-dns” option and allow “DNSCloak” to add VPN Configurations by authentifying yourself. A VPN icon will appear under the status bar by choosing “Show VPN” in the DNSCloak Settings panel. You may further enable individual IP blacklisting and whitelisting in Advanced Options.

dns

It is also possible to block ads by using DNS servers that block requests to known ad servers. Using such a method however, has its downside in that you are trusting an outside company to provide these servers free of charge and not “poison” your requests or execute MITM attacks.

A pair of Domain Name servers that block ads are AdGuard’s:

176.103.130.130

176.103.130.131

If you don’t have access to your hosts file (as most OSs do not allow it for security reasons), you will probably have to modify the DNS server for each connection you make. Oftentimes, this means only Wi-Fi connections can be modified as such.

On iOS, in the Settings app, tap Wi-Fi, then next to your connected Wi-Fi hotspot name, type the i in a circle, followed by “Configure DNS”, then change from “Automatic” to “Manual”, remove the existing servers and add the ones above, then click Save.

On Android, go to Settings, then Wi-Fi, click and hold the Wi-Fi hotspot that says “Connected”, choose Modify Network, tap the down arrow next to Advanced options, then the down arrow next to DHCP and choose Static, then scroll further down and modify DNS 1 and DNS 2 with the numbers above. It might not be possible to save just the DNS servers and you may have to enter a fixed IP for both the device IP and Gateway.

This method works for Wi-Fi connections; for Data connections you will have to use a dummy VPN app option described above, under “adfree”. The VPN/app/adfree method uses up more power (and battery) but works for any connections, whereas the “dns” option only works for Wi-Fi connections. If, however, you have a device that only connects through Wi-Fi, this “dns” option should suffice.

downloads

There are a few apps on F-droid that purport to allow you to download YouTube videos. Some are simple downloaders such as YouTube Cacher. Others allow you to play videos or music. Not all allow download, but NewPipe and SkyTube do.

You might find that neither is as good as you’d expect at downloading videos. In that situation, you might consider using the famous youtube-dl script. For that, you first need to install Termux from F-droid. You then install python and pip, and once you have python and pip installed (as detailed in our previous article), you can issue (or alias)

pip install –upgrade youtube-dl

Note that “upgrade” is preceded by two dashes. This command will update your script to the latest version. If it does not work for install, re-issue the command without the “—upgrade switch”.

You may also alias the commands used to download the videos, as follows:

youtube-dl –o \\’’%(title)s.%(ext)s’\’’

Make sure you use straight rather than curly apostrophes.

You may further enrich your intermittently off-line life with apps that allow download of webpages such as Pocket or Instapaper, which used to also download videos, but not any more. A similar free app on F-droid (though less polished) is Save For Offline.

background

One last feature available with Youtube Premium is background play. Currently, Google tolerates 3rd party apps in its store to offer this “premium” feature with their own ads (mwm, mu, vidmin, tf, ft) but it can be discontinued and the apps banned. Even while NewPipe download feature might not work so well and always, its background play works (for already downloaded videos) and you can also play in a floating window (popup).

It is also possible to play YouTube videos in the background by forcing play through the browser. In Chrome or Firefox, go to m.youtube.com and if prompted to use the app, just cancel, forcing browser use. Once you found your video, you might have to switch to the desktop version using the 3 dots in the top right corner. After switching apps, you might have to restart the video from the “control center”.

In newer OSs, it’s possible to enable PiP or “Picture-in-Picture” for the regular YouTube app without a Premium subscription, but first you may have to enable it in Settings / Apps.

On F-droid (see above), you may also find WebTube and MusicPiped, the latter for music streaming only. Another caveat is that F-Droid apps might not update automatically (unless you properly allowed that in settings), so if something stops working, consider upgrading / updating to the latest version before dumping it.

Let us know if any of the above requires further explanation.

Sources / More info: youtube-premium

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