How to Create and Use Playlists on iPhone

Person on iPod
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Playlists on the iPhone are flexible and powerful things. Sure, you can use them to create your own custom song mixes, but did you know you can also let Apple create playlists for you based on your favorite music and that you can automatically create playlists based on certain criteria?

To learn how to create playlists in iTunes and sync them to your iPhone, read this article. But if you want to skip iTunes and just create your playlist directly on your iPhone, read on.

Making Playlists on iPhone

To make a playlist on your iPhone or iPod touch using iOS 10, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Music app to open it

  2. If you're not already on the Library screen, tap the Library button at the bottom of the screen

  3. Tap Playlists (if this isn't an option on your Library screen, tap Edit, tap Playlists, and then tap Done. Now tap Playlists)

  4. Tap New Playlist

  5. When you create a playlist, you can add much more to it than just music. You can give it a name, description, photo, and decide whether to share it or not. To begin, tap Playlist Name and use the onscreen keyboard to add the name

  6. Tap Description to add some information about the playlist, if you want

  7. To add a photo to the playlist, tap the camera icon in the top left corner and choose either to Take Photo or Choose Photo (or to Cancel without adding a photo). Whichever you choose, follow the onscreen prompts. If you don't select a custom photo, the album art from the songs in the playlist will be made into a collage

  8. If you want to share this playlist with other Apple Music users, move the Public Playlist slider to on/green

  9. With all of those settings filled out, it's time to add music to your playlist. To do this, tap Add Music. On the next screen, you can search for music (if you subscribe to Apple Music, you can choose from the entire Apple Music catalog) or browse your library. When you find a song you want to add to the playlist, tap it and a checkmark will appear next to it

  10. When you've added all the songs you want, tap the Done button in the top right corner.

Editing and Deleting Playlists on the iPhone

To edit or delete existing playlists on your iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the playlist you want to change

  2. To re-arrange the order of the songs in the playlist, tap Edit in the top left

  3. After tapping Edit, tap and hold the three-line icon to the right of the song you want to move. Drag it to the new position. When you've got the songs in the order you want, tap Done to save

  4. To delete an individual song from the playlist, tap Edit and then the red button to the left of the song. Tap the Delete button that appears. When you're done editing the playlist, tap the Done button to save the changes

  5. To delete the entire playlist, tap the ... button and tap Delete from Library. In the menu that pops up, tap Delete Playlist.

Adding Songs to Playlists

There are two ways to add songs to playlists:

  1. From the playlist screen, tap Edit and then the + button in the top right. Add songs to the playlist the same way you did in step 9 above

  2. If you're listening to a song that you want to add to a playlist, make sure the song is in fullscreen mode. Then, tap the ... button and tap Add to a Playlist. Tap the playlist you want to add the song to. 

Other iPhone Playlist Options

Besides creating playlists and adding songs to them, the Music app in iOS 10 offers a number of options. Tap the playlist to see the list of songs, then tap the ... button and your options include:

  • Download—Tap this to download all songs in the playlist to your phone for offline listening
  • Play Next—Tap this to have the playlist be the next thing played in the Music app
  • Share Playlist—Tap this to share the playlist via Messages, email, Twitter, Facebook, and more
  • Love—Tap this to let Apple Music know this is the kind of music you like. Doing this helps improve recommendations and personalized mixes.

Creating Genius Playlists on iPhone

Creating your own playlist is nice, but if you prefer to let Apple do all the thinking for you when it comes to creating a great playlist, you want iTunes Genius.

Genius is a feature of iTunes and the iOS Music app that takes a song you like and automatically creates a playlist of songs that will sound great with it using the music in your library. Apple is able to do this by analyzing its data about things like how users rate songs and what songs are often bought by the same users (every Genius user agrees to share this data with Apple. Does that creep you out? Learn how to turn off Genius).

Check out this article for step-by-step instructions on how to create a Genius Playlist on the iPhone or iPod touch (if you're not on iOS 10, that is. Read the article to find out what we mean).

Making Smart Playlists in iTunes

Standard playlists are created by hand, with you choosing each song you want to include and their order. But what if you want something a little smarter—say, a playlist that includes all songs by an artist or composer, or all songs with a certain star rating—that automatically updates whenever you add new ones? That's when you need a Smart Playlist.

Smart Playlists allow you to set a number of criteria and then have iTunes automatically create a playlist of songs that match—and even update the playlist with new songs every time you add one that matches the playlist's parameters.

Smart Playlists can only be created in the desktop version of iTunes, but once you've created them there, you can sync them to your iPhone or iPod touch.