iPhone playback on other computers

Q: I have an iPhone 3G and sync to iTunes on a Vista laptop at home, where all my music and other media content is. I would like to be able to play my music through my Windows XP’s computers speakers at work, how can this be done? Currently, my setup is using MediaMonkey, but it seems to mess up the iPhone’s music database file, because when I go back home and sync, iTunes acts like it has to reload half of my music library onto my iPhone as if it had been deleted. Is there any other way of doing this, or something I can do to fix the current situation? Thanks for your help in advance!

– Victor

A: Although there are several other third-party applications that can be used to listen to your iPhone content on other computers, they seem to all exhibit similar problems with regard to the iPhone’s media content database. This issue appears to be specifically related to the more recent iPhone firmware versions and how third-party applications interact with them. Further, information such as last played dates and play counts from songs played through these applications do not get updated in your main iTunes library, but are instead overwritten by iTunes during the next sync.

It is important to note that Apple does not officially support any of these third-party solutions, so these tend to be developed by reverse-engineering the protocols that are used by iTunes to communicate with the iPhone and iPod, and this can sometimes be a moving target for developers. Therefore, even if a third-party application works with a given iPhone firmware version, Apple is under no obligation to ensure that future firmware updates do not break features in these applications.

Unfortunately, this can be even more frustrating with the iPhone, since Apple does not permit you to manually manage your iPhone from more than one iTunes library. With iPod devices, including the iPod touch, you could simply put your device in manual mode and listen to it through iTunes on any computer you connect it to. The iPhone, however, will not appear in manual mode on secondary computers.

That having been said, however, manual mode can give you a possible workaround to the problem you’re having. If your iPhone is in manual mode, then naturally iTunes will not recopy your content when you reconnect to your home computer, since it is not syncing anything automatically. The downside, of course, is that you will have to add and remove content on your iPhone manually rather than having it automatically synced with your iTunes library.

The other obvious workaround is simply to take the computer out of the equation when listening to your iPhone at your office. If your computer uses external speakers, you could simply connect these directly to the iPhone’s headphone jack, or you can connect your iPhone from the headphone jack to the line-in port on your computer if it has one.