How do I put music on my iPhone? And how do I manage playlists on the iPhone Music app?

Music is clearly very close to Apple's heart, and every device Apple makes is great for playing audio. The iPhone, iPad and iPod touch all have dedicated Music apps, online audio features and pretty decent speakers… iOS devices remain the world's best (or at least most popular) music players.

In this feature we're going to gather together all the knowledge we have about putting music on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, not to mention playing, managing and storing music on those devices: the key tricks and techniques are outlined below, and we've linked to other articles for more specialist and advanced tips.

This guide to the iOS 10 Music app has everything you need to know to get the most out of audio on an iOS device. So kick back, turn up the speakers and let's find out what there is to know about playing music on an iPhone.

See also: 10 amazing tips and tricks for using iTunes on the Mac | How to authorise your computer in iTunes | Tidy up iTunes by removing duplicate songs | How to sync iPhone to iTunes without erasing the content | How to move your iTunes library to a new computer or external hard drive

How to put music on an iPhone: How to download music on to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch

Before we start using the Music app, we need some music to play on it. Here's how to put music on an iPhone.

Get music from the iTunes Store

There are now four main ways to get music on the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch:

Buy music from the iTunes Store. The iTunes Store is a separate app. Here you can buy a wide range of music. Tracks start at 59p and you can often find good deals on albums.

Sync music from iTunes on a Mac or PC. If you have a collection of music in iTunes for a Mac or PC, then connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to the computer (using the Lightning to USB Cable) and choose the device by clicking its icon in the iTunes menu bar. Choose Music in the sidebar and select the Sync Music option. You can choose to sync your entire music library or individual tracks, albums, artists or playlists. Click Sync when you are ready.

iTunes Match. This is a service offered by Apple for a fee (currently £21.99 per year). With iTunes Match all of your music on all of your Macs is matched against the tracks in the iTunes Store (or uploaded to iCloud). You can then stream, or download wirelessly all of your music on any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch (or any other Mac) using the same Apple ID and iCloud account.

iCloud Music Library. This service is similar to iTunes Match, but offered as part of Apple Music. Like iTunes Match, it matches the music on your Mac with songs on the iTunes Store (and you can then stream the tracks on other devices). However, you can't use this service to download DRM-free versions of the tracks to your iTunes library.

How to put music on an iPhone: How to sync your iTunes Library with an iPhone

Sync iTunes with iPhone

Syncing a music library from iTunes to the iPhone is still an incredibly popular way to get your music on your phone, despite the uprise of music streaming. The advantage of syncing your music with iTunes is that you can control exactly which tracks you have on your iPhone (and ensure that your favourite tracks are present and correct) and you don't have to be connected to a network to stream tracks, like when using Apple Music or iTunes Match.

The key disadvantage is that music tracks take up space on your iPhone, that could be used for apps, videos or other content. However, if you have a 64GB, 128GB or 256GB iPhone then this shouldn't be too much of a concern.

You can't sync music with iTunes and have iCloud Music library turned on - you have to choose between the two. If you want to sync your iPhone with your Mac, and you have Apple Music, you'll first need to turn iCloud Music Library off. Tap Settings > Music and set iCloud Music Library to Off.

Disable iCloud Music

Now follow these steps to sync music from your iTunes library on a Mac to your iPhone:

  1. Connect your iPhone to a Mac using the Lightning cable.
  2. Open iTunes (if it doesn't open automatically).
  3. Click the iPhone icon in the top-left of the iTunes interface (just below the Next icon). If you have more than one device attached, you'll see a list of devices. Select the iPhone.
  4. Click Music in the sidebar.
  5. Select Sync Music.
  6. By default you'll sync your entire music library with the iPhone. This is fine if you only have a few tracks, but if you have a lot of music in your library choose the "Selected playlists, artists, albums and genres" option.
  7. Place ticks next to the Playlists, Artists, Genres, and Albums.
  8. Click Apply.

The selected music will now be synced to your iPhone. For the initial sync it's best to have your iPhone connected to the Mac using the Lightning cable, but for future syncs you can set the iPhone up to sync over Wi-Fi. This enables you to sync content with the Mac wirelessly. Click Summary and select Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi.

Read next: How to sync your iPhone without using iTunes

How to get high-quality audio on your iPhone

Many music fans are interested in listening to high-quality audio. Music streamed over Apple Music, or downloaded from the App Store uses bitrate compression to reduce the file sizes. This can degrade the quality. Most users don't notice the difference, but some fans would prefer to have audio in the highest quality possible.

If you're into high-quality audio then there are lots of lossless options available to you. You can copy audio CDs to iTunes in a lossless format such as AIFF and Apple Lossless (ALAC), and these can then be synced with your iPhone.

Audiophiles will get a lot out of our exhaustive guide: How to get the best quality audio on your iPhone: An audiophiles' guide to sound quality

See also:

How to get music files off your old iPod

How to get music on and off your iPhone or iPad, without using iTunes

How to fix iOS music syncing problems

Guide to using iTunes Match

How to use the iOS Music app

Now we've got some tracks on our iOS device, we can start using the Music app.

You'll find Apple's Music app on the Home screen of every iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Music has a white icon with a musical note, and out of the box (and long afterwards for many users) sits in the Dock at the bottom of the screen for fast access, alongside Phone, Safari and Mail.

Ever since the launch of Apple Music, the Music app has taken on a dual role. On the one hand playing music stored locally on your device, and enabling you to stream all the music from the iTunes Store (and any music stored on iTunes on a Mac using the same account).

What you'll see when you launch the Music app depends on whether you have taken out a subscription to Apple Music. If so, you'll see For You, New, Radio, Connect and My Music. If you chose not to take out an Apple Music subscription (and tapped Yes to the Hide Apple Music Features alert) then you'll see Library, Connect, Radio and Search.

The tracks in your library are arranged automatically by Artists. Tapping Artists enables you to sort your library via Album, Song or Genre. You can also manually create Playlists (collections of tracks). Tabs along the bottom of the screen enable you to switch between these different items. Clicking on an Artist or Album in the list takes you to the tracks from that artist or album, and tapping on an individual song will make it start playing.

Read more: How to create playlists in iOS

How to subscribe to Apple Music

Apple Music subscription

Apple Music is a subscription service offered by Apple that enables you to listen to almost any track in the iTunes Store for free, and collects together a huge range of music it thinks will appeal to you (some determined based on your play history and likes, others curated manually by music experts).

It costs £9.99 per month to take out an Apple Music subscription, but you get three months free so it's worth taking out the free trial (even if you don't ever intend to pay for the service). There's also a special deal for students that'll half the price to £4.99 a month - you can find out more information about this on Apple's website

If you want to take out a subscription to Apple Music, tap For You and Start Three Month Free Trial. If you don't if you don't see the For You button, tap Open Settings > Music > Show Apple Music. If you don't see this option then you're probably running iOS 8 and should upgrade to the latest version of iOS (tap Settings > General > Software Update).

Apple Music asks to pick some types of music you like, and from then on the 'For you' tab will offer a range of interesting track selections from the iTunes Store. Or you can tap Search (top-right) and pick any track, album, playlist, radio station or artist you want. My Music displays all the tracks on your device, and if you use iCloud Music Library (found in Settings > Music) you'll have your Apple Music library synced between your various devices.

Apple Music review

Apple Music vs Spotify

Apple Music vs Google Play

Controlling music playback in iOS

Tap a song to start playing it, and the track selection window is replaced with Now Playing. Here you'll see a large preview of the cover art. Directly below the cover art is a slider with a dot running along it. This shows how much of the song has played (and how much is left). You can skip to any point of the track by draging the dot left or right.

Beneath this is the name of the track, and the artist. Below that we see the main controls. Play/Pause, Next and Previous. Below that is the volume slider (or you can use the volume switches on the side of the iPhone).

Below that, you have the AirPlay button - tapping this while connected to Bluetooth speaker/headphones/on the same network as an Apple TV will allow you to change the source of your music playback. The icon consisting of three dots to the right offers a menu where you can add the song to a playlist, create a station based on the song or find the lyrics for the song (requires an Internet connection). You can also Love or Dislike the song to improve your suggestions in the "For You" tab. 

Below this, you can toggle on/off the Shuffle and Repeat options, and find a list of music that'll be played next. This can be edited to suit your mood, as we all know that shuffling through a huge iTunes library can sometimes have some... Interesting results. 

Finally, swipe down from the top of the display to drag the Now Playing screen away, and to return to the music library.

Read next: How to back up an iPhone

Controlling music from the Control Centre

You can also control music in iOS from the Control Centre. At any time in iOS you can drag up from the very bottom of the screen to reveal the Control Centre - for iOS 9 (and earlier) users, you can control the playback from here with no further steps. However for those running iOS 10, the media controls are on a second page which can be accessed by simply swiping left. 

Read more: How to use Control Centre

How to stream music from an iPad or iPhone

Apple, through the medium of iOS, makes it easy to stream music stored on an iOS device and play it through an external set of Bluetooth speakers or your TV (provided it's connected to an Apple TV).

The simple method is to use AirPlay wireless streaming, which is highly intuitive, albeit limited to products that are compatible with Apple's proprietary standard. This can be used to stream audio (or video, for that matter) from an iPhone (the iPhone 4 or later can do this), an iPad (any iPad Pro, mini or Air, and the iPad 2 and later) or an iPod touch (4th generation or 5th generation model). And you can stream to an Apple TV, or a set of AirPlay-compatible speakers. Check your speakers' documentation to see if they're qualified for the job.

The source iOS device and the audio receiver will need to be connected to Wi-Fi for AirPlay to work. Ordinarily, they should be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, but with slightly newer devices - iPhone 5 or later, iPad 4 or later, iPod touch 5th gen, plus iOS 8 or later in each case, and transmitting to the 3rd-gen Apple TV or later - you'll be able to use a more advanced version of AirPlay called peer-to-peer AirPlay. For this you'll need the source and receiver device to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth switched on, but they don't need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Whether you're using basic or peer-to-peer AirPlay, start your chosen tune playing through the Music app. Now swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen to bring up the Control Centre. iOS 9 (or earlier) users will see that the bottom central bar - which would otherwise just say 'AirDrop: [your connection preference]' and allow you to establish whether you want to be contactable over AirDrop by no one, just your contacts, or everyone - is now split in half, with the righthand half labelled AirPlay. Tap this half of the bar.

iOS 10 users have an extra step to take - swipe up to access the Control Centre, swipe left to access the media controls and tap the AirPlay source button (triangle with circles radiating from it). It's worth noting that you can also perform this action from the Now Playing screen in the Music app by tapping the same icon. 

If all has worked as it should, you'll see a list of potential AirPlay receiver devices to which you can transmit the audio (you may not recognise the name of the device, but iOS tries to help by labelling speakers with a small speaker icon, while the Apple TV has a television icon). Simply tap the set of speakers you wish to use and the audio will stop coming out of your iPad or iPhone and start coming out of the speakers. At the top of the list you'll see either 'iPad', 'iPod' or 'iPhone' - this is the source device itself, not a second device, so tap this to revert to normal audio output.

What alternative music apps are available for iOS?

Music isn't the start and end of music for the iPhone. There are a range of other apps available. Here are some music apps for iOS that it's worth looking at:

Google Play Music Review | Spotify for iOS review | Google Play vs iTunes Match review