Why does my audio stop playing when my phone locks?

Many smartphone users experience an issue where audio playback from apps stops when the phone screen turns off or locks. Songs, podcasts, videos, and other audio abruptly stops playing when the display goes dark, even though the app is still open in the background.

This problem is common across various brands of phones and audio apps. Users find audio stops on locked Android devices and iPhones when using apps like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Netflix, and more. It’s an annoying disruption, especially for people who listen to music or podcasts while walking or driving.

Phone Power Saving Features

Most modern smartphones have various power saving settings to help extend battery life. Android and iOS phones allow you to control when the screen turns off, reduce brightness, restrict background activity, and more. Here are some key power saving settings to review on your phone:

Screen timeout – Shortening the screen timeout means the display will turn off faster when you’re not actively using the phone. You can find this under Display settings on Android or Display & Brightness settings on iPhone.

Sleep – The sleep setting controls when the phone enters a low power state while the screen is off. Putting the phone to sleep faster saves power. Look for this under Display or Battery settings.

Battery Saver mode – This enables a special low power mode on Android and iOS devices to limit background activity, reduce performance, and disable some visual effects. Battery Saver can significantly extend battery life but may impact app functionality.

App battery optimization – You can control which apps are restricted from using background data and resources when the screen is off. This prevents apps from draining as much battery when not in use. Manage this under Battery settings on Android or Background App Refresh on iPhone.

App Background Restrictions

Mobile operating systems like Android and iOS place restrictions on what apps can do in the background when the phone screen is off or locked. This is to optimize battery life and system resources. According to Background Execution Limits, Android 8.0 Oreo introduced background execution limits to prevent apps from running endlessly when not in use.

Apps are restricted in two main ways. First, there are limits to background services that apps can use when idle. Android may impose restrictions to delay background services and jobs. Second, Android can limit location updates, WiFi scans, and other functionality for inactive apps. The operating system essentially pauses non-essential background activities to prioritize active apps and system functions.

These background restrictions prevent apps from draining your battery and slowing down your device when you are not actively using the app. It also provides you more control over which apps can run in the background. You can manage individual app settings to customize which apps can operate in the background when your phone screen is off.

Operating System Limitations

The operating system often restricts what apps can do in the background to save battery life and optimize performance. On iOS, the system halts non-foreground apps from playing audio by default as described in this Reddit thread: Why is YouTube iOS app allowed to charge for background …. Neither iOS nor the hardware allow background audio in inactive apps.

Android 8.0 Oreo and higher also impose background execution limits to improve user experience, including restricting background services as noted in the Android developer documentation: Background Execution Limits – Android Developers. Apps in the background must stay under strict memory limits.

On Windows 10, UWP apps are also restricted in what they can do in the background, including background audio as described in Microsoft’s documentation: Play media in the background – UWP applications. The operating system limits background activity to optimize performance.

In summary, the major mobile and desktop operating systems impose restrictions on background apps to preserve battery life, memory usage, and overall user experience. This often includes limiting or preventing background audio playback.

Screen Off vs Lock

There is an important difference between your phone’s screen turning off and your phone actually locking that impacts audio playback. When your screen simply turns off after the timeout set under display settings, some apps may continue playing audio in the background. But when your phone locks, either manually or after the timeout set under security settings, more extensive restrictions kick in.

According to this Stack Exchange post, Screen timeout versus secured lock time, the lock engages deeper power-saving restrictions compared to screen off. With the lock, background processes are much more limited in what they can do.


There are a few techniques you can try to allow audio to keep playing when your phone’s screen turns off or locks:

Use a Music App Designed for Background Play

Some music and audio apps are designed to keep playing audio even when the screen locks. For example, according to this Reddit thread, Spotify has a setting to allow background playback. So switching to an app optimized for background audio can help.

Whitelist Apps to Permit Backgrounding

You may be able to whitelist certain apps to permit background audio play even when the screen locks. This depends on your phone’s OS and manufacturer settings. For example on Android, go to Settings > Battery > Battery Optimization and whitelist apps. Or use an automation tool to toggle settings when you open certain audio apps.

Managing Individual App Settings

The most granular control is to configure each app’s background settings individually. Both iOS and Android allow you to customize permissions and restrictions for each app installed on your device.

To configure background audio on Android, go to Settings -> Apps -> Select the app -> Battery -> Allow background activity. On iOS, go to Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh and toggle background audio on or off for each app.

Allowing background audio in apps like music/video streaming or podcasts will enable them to continue playing media even when your screen is locked. Restricting this permission for social media or news apps can prevent unwanted audio from interrupting your music playback.

Testing different configurations for your most used apps can help optimize background audio function. Just be aware you may need to re-enable backgrounding if you notice an app stops working as expected. Finding the right balance takes some trial and error.

Automation Tools

Certain apps can help automate managing background restrictions for audio playback when your phone is locked. MacroDroid (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arlosoft.macrodroid&hl=en_US&gl=US) is a powerful automation app that can automatically whitelist select audio apps to keep playing in the background even when your phone screen turns off. You can set up custom macros in MacroDroid to enable background audio permissions as soon as you open an app like Spotify or a podcast player.

Automation apps like MacroDroid allow granular control over which apps can play audio in the background when your phone locks. The automation rules run silently in the background without any manual intervention needed. This makes it easy to have certain audio apps keep playing when your phone screen turns off, without having to dig into settings each time.

Alternative Hardware

Sometimes the most effective solution is to use a dedicated device that is optimized for playing audio. While smartphones are convenient, they often have restrictions in place to save battery life that can interrupt music playback. Dedicated MP3 players are designed specifically for listening to music and audio, so they don’t face the same limitations.

According to an article on Reddit comparing dedicated MP3 players to smartphones for music listening, devices like the HIDIZS S3 PRO, FiiO M5, and Apple iPod Classic provide a superior listening experience with high quality audio hardware and continuous, uninterrupted playback (Source).

An MP3 player gives you more precise control over your audio library and listening experience. Many allow you to modify audio formats, equlaization, and other settings that can enhance audio quality. Without running other demanding apps and features, they dedicate system resources to music files.

If you want to stick with a smartphone or tablet, consider using an older model with fewer restrictions, or look for devices mentioned as optimal for audio in reviews. You can also try using a dedicated media playing app that is designed to allow continuous playback in the background.


In summary, there are a few main reasons why audio may stop playing when your phone locks or turns off the screen:

  • Power saving features that restrict background app activity
  • Operating system limitations on what apps can do when the screen is off
  • Apps not being optimized to keep playing audio in the background

To work around this issue, there are a few options:

  • Manage individual app settings to allow background audio
  • Use automation tools like Macrodroid to keep the screen on
  • Use alternative hardware like Bluetooth speakers that don’t turn off with the screen

By understanding the reasons this happens and utilizing available workarounds, you can enjoy uninterrupted audio playback even when your phone is locked.

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