The iPhone is a great device for playing music, but unless you're planning to stream - which requires a stable internet connection - you'll need to get music on to the phone first. In this article we walk you through a few simple methods for downloading or installing music on an iPhone (or an iPad, for that matter - these tips work on tablets too).
And what happens if you want to transfer music from one iPhone to another and need to get at the music files stored on the device? Moving your tracks is easy if you know how. So don't lose your music when you get a new iPhone: move it across with our tips. (We also have broader advice on how to transfer files from one iPhone to another.)
Buy music on the iPhone
If you want to put music on the iPhone that you don't already own, or if you're prepared to pay for it again, then the simplest approach is to buy it directly from Apple on the iPhone itself.
Open the iTunes Store app and browse for the tracks you want using the Search tab (tap the magnifying glass icon along the bottom) or the charts. When you find it, tap the price and enter your Apple ID and/or password when required.
Download previously bought tracks
If you've bought music on another Apple device with the same Apple ID, you can redownload it here without paying again. Find it and the price will be replaced by a download button.
If you'd like to see a list of songs you've bought, tap the More icon along the bottom of the screen in the iTunes Store app and then select Purchased > Music.
Sync from Mac/PC to iPhone via USB
The most common scenario is that you already own digital copies of the music you wish to put on the iPhone, stored on a Mac or PC. If you use iTunes to manage the music, it's straightforward to sync it to the iPhone. (Note that iTunes is split into three separate apps in macOS Catalina, and this process will work slightly differently.)
1. Connect your iPhone to the Mac or PC using the Lightning-to-USB cable.
2. Open iTunes. If everything is working correctly, an icon will appear in iTunes' top-left corner, denoting the type of device you plugged in.
3. Click that icon. You'll see various details about the device - its model, serial number, iOS version number and so on - and the types of content you can sync with it will be listed down the lefthand side.
4. In the Settings section, click Music (just below Summary). Look at the tickbox at the top of the page, next to Sync Music. If there's a tick already, syncing is on; if not, tick it to switch on syncing for that content type.
If syncing is on, this means iTunes will sync the selected items of that type to the iPhone when you click Apply. (Don't click it yet - we'll set syncing options for all the content types we want, then apply them all at once.) Tick the individual items, playlists and so on that you want to sync, or tick the option at the top to automatically sync everything, or everything that is recent, unplayed or whatever.
Some problems may arise at this point: iTunes may warn you that your iPhone is synced with another iTunes library already, which will prevent syncing from taking place normally. You can get round this by picking the option 'Erase and Sync' but, as the wording suggests, this option will result in the content you synced from the other machine being wiped. Fortunately this process occurs by content type, so you can keep the films you synced from another Mac, say, while choosing Erase and Sync for music.
5. Wait for syncing to complete, then eject your iPhone (the eject icon is to the right of your device's name at the top left) and unplug it from the Mac or PC.
Sync from Mac/PC to iPhone via Wi-Fi
Syncing over Wi-Fi, like almost all wireless operations, has advantages and disadvantages compared to its wired equivalent. Obviously it's more convenient not having to dig out the correct cable (and if the USB ports are around the back of a bulky desktop Mac or PC just getting to them can be a pain). But bear in mind that you still have to connect it via USB the first time, to set up the syncing process. Future syncs will take place wirelessly.
Finally, it's worth bearing in mind that if you're syncing large files you're likely to find the process noticeably slower, since transfers are limited by the speed of your Wi-Fi connection rather than the far quicker USB.
Here's how to sync your iPhone via Wi-Fi:
1. Connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to the Mac or PC using a USB/Lightning or USB/30-pin cable.
2. Open iTunes and, as above, click on the little iPhone icon when it appears at the top left.
3. This time, instead of selecting a content type to sync, stay on the Summary tab (or click Summary at the top of the lefthand bar, if you've got lost). Under the Options section (the third box down), you'll see a tick box next to 'Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi'. Pop a tick in the box, then click Apply at the bottom-right. You can unplug the USB cable now.
4. Even though the iPhone is unplugged, you can carry on setting up syncing options in iTunes. As before, work your way through the various content types, selecting in each cases the specific files to be synced, or the parameters to be applied when deciding whether to sync a file. When you've finished, click Sync.
5. You shouldn't have to plug the iPhone in again. In future, merely connecting the iPhone to the same Wi-Fi network as the Mac or PC will result in its icon appearing in iTunes, so you'll be able to change syncing options without any hassle. If you want to sync the iPhone again, just make sure it's on the same Wi-Fi network and plugged into mains power: provided iTunes is on, it will detect the iPhone and re-apply your syncing selections and parameters.
Share music with Home Sharing
If you've got two iPhones and want to simply play the music from one on the other (rather than saving the files on the new device), it's best to use Home Sharing. Follow these steps to set up and use Home Sharing:
- On the iPhone with the music, tap Settings > Music.
- Scroll down to find Home Sharing.
- It may already show your Apple ID, in which you're already signed in. If not, tap where it says Sign In, and Enter your Apple ID and Password. Tap Done.
- Repeat this process on the iPhone you want to listen to music on. It needs to be on the same Apple ID.
- Open the Music app on the iPhone you want to listen to music on.
- Go to the Library tab, then select Home Sharing from the Library menu. If this option isn't visible, tap Edit and tick it.
It normally takes a few minutes for the music library to load into the iPhone, but you can now stream music from one iPhone to another. What you can't do with this method, however, is permanently copy the music from one iPhone to another, as this method only works when both iPhones are on the same Wi-Fi network.
Share music via the iTunes Store
If you want to transfer music from one iPhone to another, there are a few options available to you.
The easiest way to transfer music from one iPhone to another is using the iTunes Store, but this only works with music purchased via iTunes. If you have purchased music from the iTunes Store, you will be able to instantly download it to any device you own by following these steps:
- Open the iTunes Store app.
- Tap More > Purchased.
- Tap Purchased > Music.
- Tap All Songs.
- Tap Download All.
This will trigger the download all of your paid music from iTunes Store to your iPhone. Download times may vary depending on both the speed of your Internet connection and the number of songs you download.
Apple Music is Apple's answer to rival music streaming services such as Spotify, offering users the ability to browse and listen to an unlimited amount of music for a monthly fee. However, what some users may not realise is that every song, album and playlist added to your collection is stored in iCloud and is available to download on any iOS device. To transfer your Apple Music collection to a new iPhone, simply do the following:
- On the new iPhone, open the Settings app and tap Music.
- Toggle 'Show Apple Music' and 'iCloud Music Library' on (make sure you have a decent Wi-Fi connection).
- Your iCloud Music Library should then download on the iPhone.
As with the above solutions, the download time may vary depending on your Internet connection. It's also worth noting that this can also be done on iTunes on a Mac or PC, providing an easy way to transfer your collection to/from your Mac/PC.
iTunes & third-party software
But what if you didn't buy the music on your iPhone? Don't worry, it's still possible to transfer music from iTunes on your computer (Mac or PC) to an iPhone. If you still have the music on your Mac or PC, then you can sync your iPhone with your computer using iTunes: this replaces the music on your new iPhone with the tracks you select from iTunes on your Mac or PC.
This is how most people transfer music to a new iPhone - rather than transfer it directly from one iPhone to another, they use the music stored on their computer to sync the same tracks on both devices.
Problems only really arise when you no longer have access to the music in your iTunes library. In this instance, you can use third party software like AnyTrans to transfer music from your iPhone to your iTunes library (or another iPhone) by following these steps:
- Connect the iPhone containing the music to your Mac.
- Download and open the AnyTrans app.
- Select your iPhone from the tab.
- Click Audio.
- Select the tracks you want to transfer to iTunes.
- Click the Send to iTunes icon.
You can also connect both iPhones to a Mac and use AnyTrans to transfer music directly from one iPhone to another.
- Connect both iPhones to your Mac.
- Open AnyTrans.
- Click on the tab for the iPhone containing the tracks.
- Click Audio.
- Select 'Send to Device'.
The music will then be transferred from one iPhone to another. The total amount of time will depend on a number of factors, from the speed of the USB port used by each iPhone to the size of your music library.