YouTube’s silent autoplay feature—found in the home and subscriptions tabs—isn’t the most intuitive concept Google's ever cooked up. For starters, if a video autoplays for too long while you’re scrolling through your feed, the video gets added to your history, even if you don’t click on it. Then if you decide to watch the video at a later time, it starts right where the autoplay left off, instead of back at the beginning. These quirks alone are enough to make you want to pull the plug on autoplay altogether. Luckily, there is a way to banish it from your YouTube feeds.
Deactivate autoplay on YouTube’s home and subscriptions tabs
The autoplay setting for the home and subscriptions tabs is incredibly easy to miss if you don’t know where to look. First, open up the YouTube app on your favorite device. Then instead of navigating to the “autoplay” tab within the Settings menu (where you'd expect it to be), head over to “General.” Five rows down, you’ll see “Muted playback in feeds.”
As Android Police's Rita already explained in a previous story, this setting is very confusingly named. Instead of muting or unmuting video in your feed (autoplay content is always muted until you tap on the video), this option actually controls whether or not the muted videos automatically start to play when scrolling through your YouTube.
Once you tap “Muted playback in feeds,” the options from there are pretty straight forward: The default “Always on” mode means that videos will start to autoplay in your feeds as long as an internet connection is available. “Wi-Fi only” is reserved for those connected to a Wi-Fi network. Then “Off” will prevent videos from autoplaying in your feeds, period. Choose that last option, and voilà, no more unwatched videos filling your history.
Pros and cons of leaving autoplay activated
If you're still on the fence about what to do with autoplay, there are valid arguments for either side.
On one hand, autoplay allows you to preview a video — complete with closed captions — to help you determine if the video is worth watching in full. This feature may also help you discover new videos that normally wouldn't have piqued your interest.
On the other hand, limiting or even deactivating autoplay can help conserve data for phones running on metered connections. Without that little autoplay teaser, you also lower your risk of being sucked into a video that you otherwise wouldn't have cared to view. Finally, autoplay ensures only the videos you actually watch land in your history.
Whichever option fits your needs boils down to personal preference. Luckily, YouTube gives users the freedom to choose, even if that choice is filed in the wrong settings menu under a misleading name.