Using Smart Playlists to Optimize iPhone Storage

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woman with headphones listening to a playlist on iphone
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Last Updated: Nov. 2011

The first-generation iPhone topped out at just 8 GB of storage, while even the iPhone 4 offers only 32 GB. This is supposed to hold all your data – including music. Most people have iTunes music and video libraries of much more than 32 GB. So, you’re forced to choose just part of your iTunes library to include on the iPhone. This can take time and a lot of sorting.

But, iTunes can automatically create an iPhone-optimized playlist that you’ll be sure to love using Smart Playlists.

Smart Playlists are a feature of iTunes in which iTunes can create customized playlists for you from your library based on criteria you enter. For instance, you can create a smart playlist that automatically includes every song from a given year. Or, for our purposes here, every song with a certain rating. We’re going to use Smart Playlists to automatically make a collection of your favorite songs from your iPhone.

To do this, you need to have rated the songs in your iTunes library – not all of them, but enough so that a decent percentage have ratings.

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Create a New Smart Playlist

Creating smart playlist for iPhone
Creating a new smart playlist.

To create the Smart Playlist, go to the File menu and choose New Smart Playlist.

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Choose Sort by Rating

creating smart playlist on iphone
Choose Sort by Rating.

This will pop up the Smart Playlist window. In the first row, choose My Rating from the first drop-down menu. In the second menu, choose is or is greater than, depending on how many songs you have and how many you have rated. In the box at the end, choose 4 or 5 stars, whichever you prefer. Then click the plus icon.

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Complete Smart Playlist Settings

creating smart playlist on iphone
Complete Smart Playlist Settings.

This will create a second row in the window. In that row, choose size from the first drop down and “is” from the second. In the box at the end of the row, select the amount of disc space you want to use on the iPhone. It can’t be more than about 7 GB, or 7,000 MB. Choose some smaller number and you’ll be fine.

Click OK to create the playlist.

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Name the Smart Playlist

naming smart playlist
Name the Smart Playlist.

Name the playlist in the tray on the left. Make it something descriptive, like iPhone Smart Playlist or iPhone Top Rated.

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Dock iPhone

syncing smart playlists in iphone

Then, to sync the playlist to your iPhone, dock the iPhone.

In the iPhone management screen, click the “Music” tab at the top.

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Sync the Smart Playlist Only

syncing smart playlist on iphone

Check the “selected playlists” option at the top and then the iPhone playlist you just created below it. Don’t select anything else. Click the “Apply” button at the bottom right and resync the iPhone.

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You're Done!

Now, each time you sync the iPhone with iTunes, it will only sync your Smart Playlist. And because the playlist is smart, every time you rate a new song 4 or 5 stars, it will automatically be added to the playlist — and your iPhone, the next time you sync it.