How to Create and Use Playlists on iPhone

Keep your music organized with playlists for every occasion

Person on iPod
Ezra Bailey/Getty Images

Playlists on the iPhone are flexible and powerful. Sure, you can use them to create your own custom song mixes, but did you know about Smart Playlists that instruct Apple to create playlists for you based on specific criteria?

You can use iTunes on a computer to create playlists and sync them to your iPhone, but it is even easier to create your playlists directly on your iPhone.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12. They include only a few minor changes from iOS 10 and iOS 11.

Making Playlists on iPhone

To make a playlist on your iPhone or iPod Touch:

  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.

  4. Select New Playlist.

  5. Tap Playlist Name and use the on-screen keyboard to add a name.

    When you create a playlist, you can add more to it than just music. You can give it a name, description, and photo.

    Creating a new playlist on an iPhone
  6. Tap Description to add some information about the playlist.

  7. Add a photo to the playlist by tapping the camera icon in the top left corner and choose Take Photo or Choose Photo. Whichever you choose, follow the on-screen prompts.

    If you don't take a photo or link to one, the Music app makes a collage from the album art of music you include and assigns it to the playlist.

  8. To add music to the playlist, tap Add Music. On the next screen, search for music. If you subscribe to Apple Music, you can choose from the entire Apple Music catalog, browse your library, or select from Artists, Albums, Songs, Compilations, and Downloaded Music. When you find a song you want to add to the playlist, tap it to place a check mark next to it.

  9. When you've checked all the songs you want, tap the Done button in the top right corner of the screen to save the playlist.

    Selecting music for a new playlist on iPhone

Editing and Deleting Playlists on the iPhone

To edit or delete existing playlists on your iPhone:

  1. On the Playlist screen, tap the playlist you want to change to open it.

  2. To rearrange the order of the songs in the playlist, tap Edit at the top of the screen.

  3. 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 have the songs in the order you want, tap Done to save your changes.

    Changing a playlist song order
  4. To delete an individual song from a playlist, tap Edit at the top of the song list 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.

    Deleting a song from a playlist
  5. To delete the entire playlist, hard press (Apple calls this 3D Touch) the name of the playlist and select Delete from Library in the screen that opens. Confirm by tapping Delete Playlist.

    Deleting a playlist with hard press

You can also delete a playlist by opening it, tapping the ... button and selecting Remove. In the menu that pops up, tap Delete from Library.

Opening playlist to delete it

Adding Songs to Playlists

There are two ways to add songs to existing playlists:

  1. Open a playlist and tap Edit at the top of the screen. Tap Add Music and select music from any of the sections of your library. When you find a song you want to add to the playlist, tap it to place a check mark next to it and tap Done.

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

    Add song playing to a playlist

Making Smart Playlists in iTunes

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

With Smart Playlists, you set criteria and then iTunes automatically creates a playlist of songs that match and updates 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.