Sync selected content with iPhone

Q: I just bought an iPhone and I find it doesn’t have enough memory to hold my entire iTunes library. I don’t see any instructions on how to manually put songs into the phone from the library. How can I copy my music (some, not all) into the iPhone?  Please be patient with me, I’m an old guy ad not that computer savy. I just stumbled upon this site.

– Anonymous

A: Unfortunately, unlike the various iPod models, the iPhone does not have a “Manual” mode for managing content. All content must be synchronized automatically with the iPhone.

Many iPod users with large iTunes libraries have traditionally chosen to use manual management and simply drag-and-drop their selections to their iPod rather than using any form of automatic synchronization. However, this is not the only way to manage your iPod content with a large library, and in fact there are some advantages to using automatic synchronization, particularly when coupled with iTunes’ powerful Smart Playlists feature.

The solution in this case is to set iTunes to only automatically synchronize selected playlists from your iTunes library, rather than simply synchronizing ALL of your iTunes content to the iPhone. This is accomplished by connecting the iPhone to your computer and then selecting it from the iTunes source list on the left-hand side. You will see an iPhone summary screen in the main window with a number of tabs for the various types of content that you can synchronize to your iPhone:

Sync selected content with iPhone

Simply select the appropriate tabs for the type of content, and you will be able to customize the automatic synchronization settings. For example, selecting the “Music” tab will display a screen allowing you to customize your options for synchronizing Music content to your iPhone, including a setting to turn the synchronization of music on or off completely, and a setting to either synchronize “All songs and playlists” or simply “Selected playlists.”


Sync selected content with iPhone

To synchronize only some of your content, you would select the playlists that you wish to have synchronized to your iPhone, and then simply click the “Apply” button to save these settings.

In the simplest form, you could even just create a single playlist with a name like “iPhone” and place any content you want stored on your iPhone into this one playlist. Once these settings are configured, you would then just manage the content of these playlists, adding and removing content from the playlist to determine what gets transferred to or removed from your iPhone during the next sync.

When combined with iTunes’ Smart Playlists feature, this can be a very powerful way of managing content on your iPhone, since the iPhone and iTunes can also track information such as how many times you’ve played a song and when the last time you played it was. So you could, as a simple example, have a playlist that selects 500 MB of music from your “Jazz” genre that you have not listened to recently and that has not been given a low rating:


Sync selected content with iPhone

You would then simply choose this as one of the playlists to sync to your iPhone, and this playlist will be updated as you listen to your music and sync your iPhone back to iTunes, removing songs as you listen to them, and then eventually re-adding them back when they have not been listened to for more than a week. This can allow you to always keep relevant and/or fresh content on your iPhone automatically, despite the limited storage capacity.

Similar options are available for video content as well, although you can choose to select content by specific Movie or TV Show if you prefer, rather than having to build playlists:


Sync selected content with iPhone

For TV Shows, you can either use playlists or make a selection based on a specified number of episodes of a specific TV Show. For Movies, you simply select which specific movies you would like to transfer to the iPhone.

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