Solution to Smart Playlists not dynamically on iPod!

From Apple today:

If you have an iPod with a Click Wheel, Smart Playlists may stop updating dynamically after you update your iPod with iPod Updater 2005-06-26 or later. For example, if you rate a song on your iPod, the rating appears, but that same song won't appear in a Smart Playlist based on the same rating on your iPod. But this can happen with a Smart Playlist based on any criteria.

Use the iPod Updater 2006-01-10 or later to resolve this.
Note: This issue does not affect iPod nano or Fifth Generation iPod.


by dfbills on Jan 11 | 5:18 pm


FINALLY! I just confirmed it on my 4th Gen 40Gig B/W iPod and it's finally dynamically updating again!

by yourfault1 on Jan 11 | 10:05 pm

So this doesn't work on 3g's?

by genEric on Jan 15 | 4:14 pm

When I saw this post I was sooo happy. I updated my ipod, tested it out and it works. but guess what?!?! it srcewed up all my ratings and play counts!! half of my songs ratings were erased & the play counts were off the charts. I'm so mad! 6000+ songs all have been messed up. screw you apple! everytime something good happens with apple, something else has to suffer. has this happened to anyone else or is it just me???

by AbigailP on Jan 15 | 5:32 pm

Does anyone else have a problem with the "fixed" smart playlists not working quite as expected?

I didn't use them much until after Apple broke them, so I'm not sure if they were like this before...

I have a set of smart playlists that use both the rating, and the date last played, as the selection criteria (e.g. 50 5* songs not played in past 1 month)

If I change a songs rating, the playlists update fine, but if I play one of the songs, they do not...

Has anyone else noticed this?

by Kevling on Jan 18 | 4:47 am


The auto-updating of SPLs appears to have been fixed - - however, there is now another iTunes bug. Please see the post:
Bug: Tunes 6.0.2 & Rating Stars in Smart Playlists - - which you'll find on the SmartPlaylists web page.

- - Scott

by Scott on Jan 19 | 2:39 pm

Sorry to spoil all your fun...

I am using a smart playlist composed of other smart
playlists to produce a random shuffle of least recently
played songs with preference given to higher ranked

It works on iTunes.

And it works on my iPod when it is plugged into my
computer. But it does NOT work on my iPod!

I have tried everything and spent hours upon hours
surfing the net for the answer. But alas, I am stumped.

I do note that some websites CLAIM the problem is
fixed. For instance:


But no matter what I do, I still can't get it to work!
Can you help me? Thanks.

by vaughnn on Mar 12 | 9:45 pm

Hi, Vaughnn - -

Sorry, but I don't think that SPLs based on other SPLs have *ever* (self) updated on the iPod. The problem referred to in this thread has to do - - I think - - with single SPLs not dynamically updating on the iPod. . . . .

by Scott on Mar 23 | 4:18 pm

I have many SPLs that are based on other SPLs and they work fine. They self update on my ipod and everything. Make sure you have updated your firmware.

by AbigailP on Mar 24 | 8:29 pm

I would not be so stupid to have posted what I did without spending an enormormous amount of time researching and trying everything I could possible think of. I guarantee you that updating the firmware was one of the very first things I thought of and tried. My question is: Did you say this because you are well aware of and understand the problem? If so, why didn't you explain why I am having the problem and you aren't? And I don't want to be accusational, but I would appreciate it if you could give me some assurance that you really understand this problem. As near as I can tell this is not a problem related to firmware. I will try to carefully delineate the circumstances which generate the problem in the following posting. Thank you in advance, -David

by vaughnn on Apr 09 | 10:56 pm

For this example, consider three smart playlists or SPL's:

My Rating = 4
Limit to 15, sel by least recent play
Live Updating

My Rating = 5
Limit to 25, sel by Least Recent Play
Live Updating

SPL "Shuffle"
Match ANY of the Rules
Playlist is LRP 4
Playlist is LRP 5
Limit to 25, sel by Random
Live Updating

Then, the "Shuffle" playlist is listened to with the shuffle and repeat options turned on.

This creates a 25 song continuous playlist which always has random order, which always favors songs that you haven't heard in a while, and which gives preference to higher ranked songs so that they play more frequently.

It works great on iTunes.
And, it works great on your iPod when it is plugged in to your computer!

After a song finishes, it automatically gets bumped out of the lower-level LRP playlist because it is no longer LRP for that ranking. Since the top-level "Shuffle" playlist is live updating and that song is no longer within the lower-level playlist, the "Shuffle" playlist randomly picks a song to fill its vacated spot.

Someone, please tell me you have found a way to make it work when you unplug your iPod!

I have gone back and double checked all of this. Then I went and installed the 3/23/06 version 1.1.1 firmware. It is exactly the same. The bug is real and still present.

by vaughnn on Apr 10 | 12:21 am

Vaughnn - I'm not Abigail, but I just tried your scenario on my Nano and it worked...although not quite the way you want, I think. I think this might be the source of misunderstanding here. Like abagail, I also have SPL based on other SPL and they do "work" on the ipod. And yes, I understand the problem, as I had it all the time on my old 3G ipod.

So, here is what I just did:

I set up the 3 SPL with your exact criteria, printed out the list of songs in the "Shuffle" list for reference, then synced the lists to my Nano.

Unplugged the nano from the computer, and started playing the Shuffle list. After listening to that song, I navigated back to the playlist (Music > Playlists > Shuffle) and compared the list of songs to my printout.

The song I played was NOT THERE. A new song was added to the end of the list.

I did notice slighly different results if I started the playlist with a specific song, then just backed up once with the menu button to display the list. In that case, the song still showed up. But if I backed up further, then reselected the playlist, the song disappeared.

I suspect if you played all songs all the way through, at the end of the list the iPod would stop...If you then restarted the list, it would be full of fresh songs (I haven't tested this part yet, but I will later).

I hope this helps.


by Sara S on Apr 10 | 12:09 pm

OK, I just did another test of a couple differnt scenarios. Again, working with the LRP 4 / LRP 5 lists described above. I changed my "Shuffle" list to only grab 5 songs to make the testing go a bit quicker.

If I put the iPod on repeat play, then the same 5 songs keep cycling through - the playlist does not appear to update. Interestingly, while it was playing, I backed up to my list of playlists, then selected the Shuffle list again. It did show an updated list of songs. So, the set of songs it was playing and the set showing in the playlist were different. How odd.

If I put the iPod on normal (not repeat) play, then my guess from my previous post is exactly what happened. The iPod played all 5 songs and then stopped. I went back and chose the playlist again and got a fresh set of 5 songs.

So, getting the neverending "party shuffle" type repeat play on the iPod doesn't seem possible. Incidentally, I don't think it works that way for SPL that AREN'T based on other SPLs, either. Once it starts playing the songs in a list, it keeps that list until something forces it to stop.

My understanding is that the original SPL based on SPL problem was that the lists never updated at all on the iPod. In other words, after playing the 5 songs in my shuffle list, I would go back to the list and it would contain the same 5 songs. That problem does appear to have been fixed -- at any rate, it has been fixed on my newer iPod nano. Since there hasn't been a firmware update for the 3G in forever, it is probably still a problem there.

Hope this helps.


by Sara S on Apr 10 | 7:26 pm

Sara S,
It took you a while, but I see you have landed exactly where I started months ago.

There is a known iPod bug and Apple refuses to fix it!

I will even go out on a limb and tell you exactly where the bug is. When you are playing a playlist in repeat mode, the firmware checks through the list at the completion of a song and makes required updates to THAT playlist. However, it does not "live update" the other playlists. So the completed song (even though it just got done playing and is no longer LRP) remians in the lower-level LRP playlist. And, since it remains there, the top-level playlist keeps it in its suite. Hence the bug.

Now here is the killer - READ CAREFULLY!

The bug is NOT present in iTunes! Set up the same (very convenient) playlists in iTunes and they work like a charm! If they are on your iPod and your iPod is connected and you start the "Shuffle" playlist ON THE iPod from within iTunes, it also works like a charm.

by vaughnn on Apr 12 | 12:14 am

vaughnn - I think the bug you're talking about has nothing to do with SPLs based on other SPLs. I just did a quick test where I created a playlist with these criteria:
- Last Played is not in the last 1 day
- Genre is not spoken word
- Genre is not audiobook
- Limit to 3 songs selected by Random.

In iTunes, as you would expect, after playing a song in the list, it drops off and a new one is added.

On the iPod, when playing the list in repeat mode, the same 3 songs keep circulating. Same as with your list. This is just the way SPLs are on the ipod.

But if you back up and re-select the playlist, it has new songs.

My theory is that the ipod loads up the list of songs somehow and simply doesn't update that list when playing in repeat mode. It doesn't appear to matter what criteria is used for the list.

The original SPL based on other SPLs bug was that the lists would never, ever update on the ipod. You could play the whole list, have it stop, then go back and the same songs were in the list. This, at least, HAS been fixed.

I can see why the repeat thing is annoying to you, although honestly, yesterday when testing this was the first time I've ever USED repeat mode on my iPod. It isn't a big deal (for me) to let the list play all the way through and then restart it to get a fresh set of songs. It is better than it used to be, when THAT didn't work.

by Sara S on Apr 12 | 10:51 am

I have a iPod with dock connector running software version 2.3, and a SPL containing other SPLs is never updated.

I have a SPL Good defined having My Rating of 3 stars, and Last Played not in the last 14 days, limited to 25 songs selected at random with live updating. I have a SPL Very Good defined the same way with a rating of 4 stars and limited to 50 songs selected at random. Finally I have a a SLP Great for 5 stars and limited to 75 songs at random.

I then create an SPL called Test with any of the other Playlists and live updating and limited to 2 songs selected at random.

If I play those two songs on the playlist, and then go all the way back up to the top menu and back down to the playlist, it is still not updated. Apple must have decided the bug wasn't worth fixing on the older iPods.

by infloop on Apr 12 | 2:31 pm

infloop - I get the same thing on my 3G ipod running 2.3. I was quite surprised when I tried the same lists on my nano and it worked!

It really is too bad Apple won't fix it for the older iPods.

by Sara S on Apr 12 | 3:37 pm

Sara and other fine Cyberfolk,
Let me try to explain why this bug IS a big deal. First off, thank you Sara for your thoughtful consideration and comments!

Creating a single large quasi-random playlist for our iPods, listening it through, and then listening to it again is vastly inferior to utilizing the power of smart playlists as they work in iTunes and were billed as working on iPods.

The great advatage of SPLs and live updating is that we can create shuffle playlists (like the example given previously) where songs of higher ranking play more frequently than lower ranked songs. Likewise, songs from different genre can play with different statistical frequency. On top of this, it can be pulled off in a very random non-repetitive manner.

A single playlist on the iPod doesn't cut it.

So Dear Mr. Apple, fix your iPod firmware!

by vaughnn on Apr 12 | 11:58 pm

I don't think you're really reading what I wrote. Maybe I'm not explaining myself well.

I didn't adovcate creating a single large playlist. Your set of "LRP" playlists combined in a "shuffle" playlist WORKS and UPDATES on the ipod. At least it does on mine. Each time I start the list, songs that have been played and thus no longer meet the criteria drop off. Just as you want.

The part that doesn't work is the repeat mode -- which, as I pointed out in my earlier post -- does not work for ANY SPL, not just those based on other SPL.

There is certainly a bug, it is just not where you think it is. And, you can work around it and get 90% of what you want -- a shuffle list that plays songs of different ratings/genres/whatever at different statistical frequencies. You just have to let the list finish playing, then restart it to get it to refresh.

I guess I just don't understand why it is such a big deal to simply turn off repeat mode and live with 3 seconds of silence after listening to your 25 songs while you navigate back to the list and restart it. It obviously is a big deal to you -- I just don't get why.

by Sara S on Apr 13 | 10:13 am

Good question Sara!

I (usually) don't listen to the iPod with it in my pocket and little ear buds plugged into my ears.

It goes into the house stereo for house-wide music. We listen to it all through the day from various rooms. So, if I were to turn off the repeat mode, I would first have to wait until I was done with the current task (laundry, dinner, etc.) then go over to where the iPod is, press a bunch of buttons, and restart it.

I just want it to play.

Now, there IS a time when I do the pocket/ear bud method. It's when I am excercising. Here again, it doesn't really work. If I am out running, I have to stop, pull it out of my pocket, turn off the "accidental bump" switch, press a bunch of buttons, turn the "accidental bump" switch back on, stick it back in pocket, and then start running again.
Meanwhile, my running partners are going "later!"

by vaughnn on Apr 15 | 1:53 pm

Thank you again for your consideration!

by vaughnn on Apr 15 | 10:45 pm

Ah, I see your point now, especially with the running example. About the only workaround there would be to make the "Shuffle" list that combines the other lists long enough for the whole run (maybe set the criteria by hours or minutes rather than # of songs?) At least you'd get a fresh set of songs for each run. Still not what you want, though.

I'm wondering if the source of the problem lies in the way the iPod loads up the playlist -- once it has the list of songs, it never updates that list when in the repeat mode. Have you ever noticed that when playing a long playlist, you can hit the "Previous" button and back all the way back to the first song? Maybe the way it is somehow hanging on to the list of songs is interferring with updating on the fly in repeat mode.

It is too bad, because if it worked, you could essentially make any smart playlist work like "party shuffle" in iTunes. I'm a big fan of party shuffle, since I spend most of my workday in front of my computer and just listen thru itunes rather than using the ipod.

Given the way Apple has fixed bugs before -- wanna bet they eventually fix it for a newer iPod, but never update the firmware for the older ones???


by Sara S on Apr 16 | 10:29 pm

I have read the above posts and have been trying to get my iPod to dynamically update my SPL's on the iPod. I have a 3 level set of lists, the lower level randomly selects songs by some criteria and I use them to determine the mix (ie. how much Reggae, How much Jazz etc. They also are set to drop songs that have been played in the last week. The middle level list just selects all of the lower level lists and the top level selects the middle level list and is set to eliminate any songs played in the last week.

It works fine in iTunes. It works not at all on the iPod. No matter how many time I play the top level list (non repeating), When I go back, it's exactly the same songs on the list. My firmware is ver. 1.5. My iPod is an original 10 gig. 3 years old. Could it be that these features are not supported on older iPods?

What really bugs me is I play the list and when I update the iPod, if I haven't played the list on iTunes, it just leaves the played list on the iPod and does not refresh it. The only way to make it refresh is to play the list in iTunes. That really sucks.... There's no point in having dynamic list on my iPod.

by waywuwei on Sep 12 | 11:55 pm

I'm having the exact same problem as you waywuwei but it seems like no one has the answer :(

by antiboy on Nov 11 | 6:41 pm

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