How to make “Genius” Playlists work on the iPhone

So, yesterday the 2.1 firmware came out for the iPhone. Amongst other things, it promised the ability to use Genius Playlists on the phone itself. Hooray, I thought.

Except that the blooming things wouldn’t work for me. Oh dear.

Now, I’d already turned “Genius” on in iTunes, so I’d already seen that it wouldn’t create playlists for everything in my collection. For example, if I tried to use anything from the Dr Horrible soundtrack (one of the most sold albums in the iTunes Music Store in recent months) no playlist was able to be created. I was pretty much prepared that the first couple of seed tracks I tried wouldn’t create a playlist.

Henry Kissinger

Anyway, after updating and syncing my iPhone I went into the iPod app and started playing a track. Then, I tapped the screen to see if I could work out where the genius icon was, and lo and behold it appeared directly underneath the play progress bar. “That was easy”, I thought. Unfortunately, pressing it resulted in a message telling me that no genius playlist was able to be created. “Oh well” thought I, and tried the next track. The same thing happened. Twelve tracks later, and obviously something was not right. So, I hit the interwebs.

It turned out that other people were having issues with “Genius” on the iPhone too. One person made the suggestion that some metadata had been added to the tracks themselves by Genius, and that it wasn’t working for people because that metadata hadn’t been synced onto the iPhone yet. Thinking that this might be the case for me, I first told iTunes to not sync any music to my iPhone, synced it, then told it to start syncing music, resynced, waited an hour or so for everything to transfer across and finally Genius playlists started working. Hooray!

From my limited experience with Genius playlists, when they work they’re pretty decent. So far I’ve been reminded of a fair few tracks I’d not listened to in literally years, and I’ve not had many duff tracks show up for me.

So, to get Genius Playlists working on your iPhone you need to:

  1. Turn on Genius in iTunes. Let it do its work and keep it turned on.
  2. Update your iPhone to 2.1
  3. Turn off music syncing to your iPhone.
  4. Sync your iPhone.
  5. Turn on music syncing to your iPhone.
  6. Sync your iPhone.
  7. Rejoice. You should now be able to start listening to “Genius” playlists.

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Neil Crosby now blogs at The Code Train and also runs, The Ten Word Review and Everything is Rubbish.