What breaks iPod Smart Playlists?

In my experience, there are certain rules that will make a smart playlist fail to update dynamically when on an iPod. Is there a complete (or mostly complete) list of what conditions do this?

From what I've experienced, these break live updating on iPod smart playlists:
*Podcast is <true/false>
*Playlist is <another playlist>
*Album Rating is <0-5> stars

My speculation is that the Playlist and Album Rating rules break live updating because the iPod doesn't do the complex calculations that those require. I think the Podcast rule is a bug and for all I know it's fixed now. I just avoid it and use
*Genre contains/does not contain Podcast
and that seems to work just fine for me in most cases.

Because of this issue, I avoid the Podcast and Playlist rules entirely now, and while I use the Album Rating rule I do so knowing that the playlist it creates won't live update on the iPod and will only get updated when I sync back to iTunes.

Are there other rules that break live updates?

by Matthew Glover on Oct 15 | 3:54 pm


Playlist is <another playlist> does work if the playlist also exists on the iPod. Having it exist solely on iTunes does indeed kill it.

by Gareth on Oct 18 | 7:56 pm

Right, yeah, I had to think about that. If the only way it knows to change out a song is when one of the intermediaries does so, and that intermediary playlist isn't on the ipod, then it will not change your ipod's smart playlist 'till itunes boots up again.

Album rating may be calculated by itunes and not the ipod (since itunes has the whole album and maybe your ipod doesn't?)

But I see no reason why podcast would mess anything up.

by limbodog on Oct 19 | 4:38 pm

Alright, this is the most maddening limitation to me. Maybe you guys can help me.

I just got my first iPod a couple of days ago. My grand syncing scheme was to set up smart playlists like this on several REALLY large playlists:

Playlist is X
Limit to 100 songs

The thing is, X has like 8 GB of music in it, as does Y, Z, A, and B. That's why I can't just throw them all on the device as is. I'm too old (and too busy) to rate my songs, or individually pick songs out to put on a playlist (I just drag entire artists onto the playlists), which is why they have gotten so big.

Anyone have any ideas for me? Any third party hack/scripts?

I've thought of selecting the playlists, then doing ctrl-A, Get Info, and adding a comment to all the songs, but that's kind of a pain. This would screw things up if a song was in multiple playlists too.

by e-head on Oct 23 | 10:42 am


I honestly can't sympathize w/ Apple too much on this one. All playlists (except the on-the-go) are set up, maintained, and edited via iTunes. It seems obvious enough that if the playlist isn't on the iPod itself it must be in iTunes (the algorithm could certainly check, at the very least).

This is how it should work:

Plug in iPod.
iPod updates iTunes with the list of recently played tracks.
iTunes updates it's smart playlists.
iPod updates it's smart playlists, and if one depends on a playlist not on the device, it assumes it's in iTunes.
Only if it can't find it on the device OR in iTunes should it "break" the live update.

Easy enough.

by e-head on Oct 23 | 10:47 am

I get only limited success with the "Last Skipped is not in the Last X [amount of time]" command. It works on iTunes, but if I skip a tune on my iPod, then refresh the SPL, it usually does not clear itself.

I understand that the "skipped" tag is triggered by a song that has played for a certain amount of time, but that doesn't seem to make a difference.

by jasn on Oct 23 | 5:46 pm

If I recall correctly, the "skipped" tag is triggered when you hit Next during the first nine seconds a song is playing, and only under those particular conditions. Because that's such a narrow window, I hardly ever use Skip Count and I've never tried Last Skipped at all. I'm curious to see what other folks say about it. Perhaps you could create a new main topic so this gets more attention?

by Matthew Glover on Oct 23 | 5:52 pm

Let me just clarify my 2 earlier comments.

In fact, things work exactly as I said they "should" in my second comment. If you have a smart playlist on your iPod that relies on a playlist that is in iTunes only, then obviously the live update feature is going to be "delayed" until you dock it.

Upon docking, the songs I had played on the iPod were updated to iTunes, the smart playlists were updated, and the "new version" of the smart playlists are what get copied to the iPod.

So all is right in the world as far as I can see.

This is a great way to always have your iPod loaded with a small random sample from another much larger playlist.

I actually use playlists for each genre, instead of the genre tag. I do this just because I can drag different artists/albums to many genres, if more than one applies. I know you can do this the genre tag, but then you have to remember the order you put stuff in.... "indie, folk, pop", or was that "pop, indie, folk"? Not to mention, you can't mass edit the genre tag without writing over what was already there.

Anyway, then you can make a smart playlist that puts the least recently played 100 songs from each genre on your iPod.

by e-head on Oct 24 | 11:07 am

I'm a new ipod owner (160GB classic) and confused by this issue. I've read the past articles on this site about dynamic updating on the ipod and got the impression it didn't work at all, but this post implies that it does work? Or is it dependent on model?

I set up a 'Recent and Unplayed' list with play count = 0, podcast false, last 200 recently added. It does not update dynamically on the iPod, only when I sync. Then I found this article and will try getting rid of the podcast restriction when I get home.

But, just now I noticed that even the playlists created by default by iTunes (Recently Played and Top 25 Most Played) are also not updating - so it must not be just the podcast thing.

Is it possible dynamic updating doesn't work at all on 6G iPods?



by tjd on Oct 24 | 11:08 am


I've read that Live Updating is broken on the 6G Classic iPods. I don't have one myself, so I can't confirm or deny.

by Matthew Glover on Oct 24 | 11:18 am

Thanks... I played around a little more and it looks like it's not *completely* broken - the 'My Top Rated' playlist updates as I change ratings. But, nothing based on play count or last played seems to update.

by tjd on Oct 25 | 1:08 pm

I have one of the 80GB classics. I have found that the iPod doesn't seem to update the play count or last played consistently. I had setup some smart playlists so that a song was removed if the last played date was within the last 2 weeks. Well, I kept hearing songs day after day. So I looked up some of the songs in iTunes and they hadn't been updated. If I played them in iTunes they did get updated and were removed from the list.

So next I setup my playlists to play any song that had a play count of less than 1. In the last three days it has updated on two days. One day it did not update.

I have found the same problem with podcasts, which is a real pain, since I have to go back and remove them manually from the iPod buy marking them not new. Or I can go to the iPod and play them again, only need to play them for a second or two, then sync again.

Anyone know how I can contact Apple to let them know about this problem. If they already don't.

by rockinrod on Nov 02 | 8:05 pm


I've heard play counts and ratings do not update properly if you have your ipod set to sync manually? FWIW, I still have the problem I described above when using the ipod "standalone", but when I sync the play counts and playlists do get updated.

by tjd on Nov 16 | 3:57 pm

IIRC, when you're using Manage Manually, no metadata is copied from the iPod back into iTunes. It's because of this that I finally gave up on Manage Manually and moved to syncing selected playlists.

by Matthew Glover on Nov 16 | 4:08 pm

OMG OMG OMG!!!! My iPod now automatically updates w/o having to sync it to iTunes. You have NO idea how happy I am for this!!!

Thank you!!!! Thank you thank you thank you.

The only hassle was that I had to filter out every podcast by album or artist, but it was worth it.

by kitanaor on Nov 21 | 6:03 am

This is a question relating to dynamic updating of SPL’s using the following criteria (as an example):
•Grouping Contains: .p/a.
•Grouping Contains: .chill.
•Grouping Contains: .old.
•Grouping Contains: .deck.
•Grouping Does Not Contain: .disproportionate.
•Grouping Does Not Contain: .christmas.
•Genre Does Not Contain: Jazz
•Genre Does Not Contain: Blues
•Genre Does Not Contain: Bluegrass
•Rating Is Greater Than: ** (two stars)
•Last Played: Is Not In The Last 1 Day
•Limit To: 10000GB Selected At Random
•Live Updated (selected)

From what I have read, none of these should prevent a playlist from updating dynamically without needing to connect to iTunes.

Right now I have three iPod’s: two 80gig 5G Videos and one 80gig 6g Classic. Only one of the 80gig Videos is mine, the other two belong to my parents and my girlfriend’s parents.

This is the first time I’ve used Last Played as a criteria. Since the iPod’s that don’t belong to me will only be given to me periodically (once every 3 or 4 months) synching with iTunes regularly isn’t an option.

I first tried that SPL (sans the Last Played criteria, it works fine) on Monday. I played the first 4 tracks and found that as they played, the songs were removed from the SPL. To me, this indicates that the iPod is capable of updating playlists dynamically.

The problem is that I waited a day and went back into the SPL and for the life of me, I cannot find the songs. I would assume that after a day, these songs would be added to the SPL (probably at the bottom).

Later that night I synched with iTunes and from what I can tell, they are back on the SPL.

Is this a problem that affects all iPod’s, just the 6G Classic or perhaps an anomaly?

Any help on this would be wonderful.

by kurly on Dec 12 | 9:38 am

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