How To: Create a Genius Playlist on the iPhone or iPod Touch

One of the new features in the iPhone and iPod Touch 2.1 firmware is the ability to create Genius Playlists on the fly, and right on the device. iTunes 8 introduced the concept of Genius Playlists, which like Pandora and, use algorithms based on audio profiling, metadata matching, and (anonymously acquired) end user tastes, crunched in the Apple cloud. Basically, they take a song you like, what you typically like with it (what playlists you include it on), what others who like it also like (what playlists they include it on), and what music mathematically (tempo, tone, etc.) fits in with it. Then they try to predict other songs you might also like -- in this case already on your iPhone -- and whip you up a near-instant playlist on-demand.

How good is it? That depends entirely on how much music you have on your iPhone (the pool from which it can draw), how closely the metadata matches what's in iTunes (or it won't recognize your music -- try tweaking the fields if you have trouble), and how many other users have contributed their data to the cloud (because the engine will supposedly get better and better the more information it's fed).

Okay, so enough about what Genius Playlists are, how do we get them working on our iPhone? Full instructions after the jump!

UPDATE: In order to use Genius Playlists on your iPhone, you have to have the Genius service enabled under iTunes 8, and if you are manually managing your music, have at least one iTunes playlist you've dragged to your iPhone (otherwise the iPhone Genius service will not initialize). Also, as mentioned above, if you didn't get your music via iTunes, make sure you copy iTunes' metadata as closely as possible or Genius may not recognize your songs. For more, check out the comments below. (Thanks Matt for the tips!)

First, from your iPhone or iPod Touch home screen, tap the iPod App icon. Next, tap on the Playlist button at the bottom (if you've customized your layout, you may have to tap More.. first, then hit Playlists). From the top of the playlist screen, tap Genius.

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The iPod App will slide up a song chooser. Flick-scroll your way through it until you find a "seed" song you want to use to generate your Genius playlist around. If you don't have enough music on your iPhone similar to the "seed" song, iPod App will pop up a dialog box to alert you. No worries, pick another song! When you find one Genius can work with, a new, automagically generated playlist will slide up.

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If you hate the playlist, just tap New and start again. If it's okay, but not great, tap Refresh and Genius will use the same "seed" to generate a new, differently ordered playlist (and if you have tons of music, with variations in the exact songs selected). If you loves it, tap Save, and your awesome new Genius list (named after your original "seed" song) will be added to your existing playlists. Get sick of it later? Go back to Playlists, choose it, and hit Edit. From there you can Refresh for variety, or Delete for eternity.

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jna from the comments points out that you can also create a Genius List on-the-fly while listening to a song. Just tap to enable the heads-up controls and then hit the Genius icon in the middle. Voila!

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Give it a try, and brilliant lists or total duds, let us know just how dazzling your Genius is!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • The "Genius" feature seems to be missing on my iPhone. I looked for it...but it's not there.
  • Chris,
    The problem must be with you manually managing your music. I had this same problem and here's the fix:
    In iTunes, click on a song and then the Genius button.
    Click on "Save Playlist" at the top of the list of songs. This will create a playlist in your "playlists" section of iTunes.
    Drag the newly created playlist up to your iPhone. It'll create a Genius playlist on your iPhone but more importantly the Genius function now appears to work on the iPhone itself.
  • Thanks!! Worked!
  • @Mike
    Excellent tip! Thanks much for contributing!
  • I heard it works. Better on iTunes
  • @Rene
    It's Matt. :p
    But welcome all, I'm sure other people are having a similar issue.
  • for some reason it doesnt work on my iphone when i click on the genious logo on my iphone it says i have to activate geniou on itunes and in itunes its already activated any ideas? please reply
  • @ Matt:
    Thanx man! I'll try that...
  • @ Matt:
    It worked! Thanx again!!!
  • @ Matt
    I've think I've gone through about 50 songs on my iPod touch ( I have around 3,000) and I've only been able to create 1 playlist with an Incubus song. Every other song it says there aren't enough songs. Any ideas?
  • @Dane
    This is probably due to either lack of amount of plays or incorrect meta-data. When Genius goes to look for similar things it's looking for certain album, artist, genre, etc. If it's not entered right like in the iTunes store, then you won't get any results.
    Now if certain songs are working iTunes and not on your iPod then that sounds like a bug.
  • I'm actually quite fond of this feature, when it was announced I didn't think I would have much use for it, but it's surprisingly accurate with my tastes.
    I have about 2000 songs and most of the time I am able to create a playlist. One thing that is really annoying about this is that there is no support for any of my Beatles songs becasue they aren't in the iTunes Store. That's my major gripe so far to be honest, but otherwise it's been going pretty well.
  • Ok, it works ok on my ipod touch, but there's definitely an annoying bugs. Many times when I choose my desired seed song, it suddenly becomes the song that has similar name instead. So many remixes of the original songs are picked instead of the original versions.
  • Have to put this "GENIUS" thing to test
  • At the bottom of the Genius playlist it says "25 Songs". How can one create a playlist with 50 or 100 songs (as in iTunes)? I know one can always do a Refresh, but the fact that it says "25 Songs" seems to imply that there's some way of creating a playlist with a different number of songs. Couldn't find anything in Settings > Music. Thanks in advance.
    Gotta wonder what kind of algorithm this thing uses, by the way. I generated a playlist and it included both "Black Blade" by Blue Oyster Cult, and "Whispering" by Nino Tempo and April Stevens. Huh? ;-)
  • I think you can also create a genius playlist "on the fly"- When you are playing a song you like so much you want to create a playlist from it, tap just underneath the song name so that the bar that shows your progress through the song appears. In the middle of this bar will be the genius symbol. Click on it and "presto" brand new playlist. You can actually make a chain of playlists each time you hit a great song use it to generate a new playlist- endless chain-o-genius...
  • Thanks jna, I'll add that to the post!
  • Hey, thanks Matt!!! Works like a charm.
  • I downloaded the itunes 8 and the 2.1 update and i got genius and everything and i registered genius and everything but it doesnt work on my ipod touch. I have made many playlists on the computer and then put them on my ipod, but when u try to use genius on my ipod it just says that it is not enabled. i do not know what to do. any suggestions??
  • Hey Chris,
    I think I know how to solve your problem. First turn off Genius in the Store drop-down menu in iTunes 8, then turn it back on again. Then create a Genius playlist and sync it into your iPod. It worked for me when I had the same problem.
  • i am unable to activate the genius playlists on my ipod touch. i can put genius playlists on my ipod from itunes, but i cannot create on directly from my ipod. any ideas?
  • pareil que Mounir je suis en chien!! ahhhh!! j'ai fait la mise a jour 3.1.3 comme un debile ! rstlueat: iphone bloque9 sur cable et itunes et appel urgence uniquement. et ma puce sfr est accepte9e mais n'active pas le tel.aidez moi svp
  • i tried the turning off and on and syncing suggestion with no luck
  • thanks ive tried that, no luck. but ti doesnt matter because it got stolen last friday from school somehow
  • can you do this on a jailbroken unlocked iphone 1.1.4
  • @bailey no, it's 2.1 only, however, you can jailbreak 2.1 using QuickPwn
  • i have a dads not ready 2 give his credit card info,so im not able 2 make an account with itunes.i cant get any of the games nd the genius playlist!.plz help!.how do i bypass dat billing info?
  • I purchesed the new ipod chronicles, it has the genius porgram but i tried just about every song on my ipod and get the same messege every time. It just says The genius aplication doesn't work for this song. Any suggestions?
  • "Genius is unavalible for the selected song."
  • if you have all your songs in ur itunes library ...go 2 store(an option on top)and activate genius
  • I'm trying Genius on my iPhone and it keeps saying for this one particular song that i don't have enough songs to go with it. But when i do it on iTunes, it works. I've tried putting the one i made on iTunes on my phone, and then making a playlist, but it still says i don't have enough songs.
  • I tried turning it on and off in itunes, as well as syncing a playlist made with genius and still no results. What do I do?!
  • I put all songs on my ipod first and then switched on genius on itunes, so now how do i get it on my ipod?
  • hi, please can you instruct me how to create a video playlists. i want my videos to be organized.
  • yaar tension kya ha, chado genius nu aap hi ho genius
  • Yaar Bimari to ye hai ke Sala kaun iTunes Acount banae, Kaun Paise Bhare, Ek to INDIA mein Itunes Store Nai hai, Upar se Paise Bharo, Kaun hai Jo Paise bhare. Hai Koi?
  • My geneus dont work on both laptop or ipod, any ideas
  • If you're looking for a way to easily create playlists on the iPhone/iPod Touch with a more intuitive interface than Genius, definitely check out "Forgotten Favorites." It just got accepted to the App Store and we couldn't be happier with the response we're getting (Disclosure: I'm on the development team).
    Might be what you're looking for... there's also a YouTube video if you're curious.
  • Everytime I press a song to put on genius it says try again and I'm tired of doin tha
  • I have the same problem as some others. Genius works on my itunes, but says i don't have enough common music on my ipod when i try to make a Genius playlist from the same songs. What gives?
  • ARGH!!!! all my songs don't work for the genius playlist, saying that there isn't enough, where each song i have has a lot of songs in it's album, and a lot of different albums with same artists. It's really annoying and also, I tried updating it a bunch of times, and it never works. Any tips? or is it b/c the songs i download aren't from itunes? ..that's stupid
  • Your instructions stink
  • i like that ipod touch (i mean the 3rd gen 64gb) looks alot like the first iphone.and i would like a new ipod touch to come out and be salimir with iphone 4
  • gr8 tip guys tnx
  • How do u get to see that cool interface look on there
  • I can't even figure out were to turn on the genius function. All it's saids is go to iTunes to turn it on. But were in iTunes? I feel so lost!!
  • It pretty much rejected EVERY single song on my iPod, saying it did not have enough related songs D:<
  • I used genius on my computer to create automatic genius mixes, and for a while it worked fine on my iPod touch. But now, possibly since the last software update, there is no longer a genius menu containing these mixes, though the genius function to create a new playlist based on a particular song does work on the iPod. Any suggestions for where the genius mixes went? I can't seem to drag them onto the iPod on the computer (they're still present on the computer).
  • Oh god. That's me, too. It never gets any easier. I tend to just let it build up until there's a acslople and just my feet can be seen poking out, followed by a series of muffled distress calls. It's then search and rescue teams go in and pull me out. But their patience is wearing thin. Of course they don't accept Rupert's no. 3. They hope for Rupert's no. 2. But I'm inclined as the years go by towards the apocalyptic resolution of Rupert's no.1. Now where's those matches