Smart Playlists Updating on 3G iPod?

I used my 3G iPod for months without even considering that Smart Playlists updated on-the-fly. It just wasn't happening. When I learned from others that it should work (they have other iPod models), I've been going nuts trying to figure out why it's not working.

I know I have the lists set up correctly because when I sync everything works as expected. Without going into details, I have seen some evidence of real time, on-the-fly updating (by creating some very simple playlists with single criteria, etc.), but when I use my real playlists it doesn't work.

What are the rules? Can you not use certain critia? Can they not be nested to deep? Does anyone have this working on a 3G iPod? I can't find any details information on the web.

by klwdallas on May 24, 05 | 1:57 am


The new updater from Apple has a bug that prevents all Ipods from being able to update smart playlist on the Ipod itself.

Until Apple fixes this, the only way to refresh your smart playlists is to resync the Ipod to Itunes.

Or you can go back and load a previous version of the firmware.

Apple sure doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to fix this problem either. It has been almost 3 months since it was reported, yet they have not released a new firmware version.

by FredH on Aug 15, 05 | 11:08 am

Yah it looks like my new iPod 20 GB Photo isn't updating the smart playlists by itself either. Until Apple comes up with a fix, we'll just keep bugging them. In the mean time, just do as I do and sync your iPod at least once a day.

by jazzer on Aug 15, 05 | 4:47 pm

ive been reading all these posts about ipod not auto updating...i really dont know what u guys are talking about...i have the newest version of itunes...and mine auto updates ALL the time

i play a song i know something will change ill exit the playlist and then enter it again and it will have changed...so mine has no problems at all.

by Graham on Aug 21, 05 | 12:57 pm

A lot of people seem to not be mentioning which iPod they have. I had a 20GB 3G (dock connector, row of buttons) with iTunes 4.6/4.7, and my smart playlists (mostly based on play count) seemed to work all the time with every iPod update.
Now I have an iPod color (5G? Not "Photo") with iTunes 4.9 and the latest firmware, and they're not updating at all.

by Frungi on Aug 21, 05 | 5:58 pm

Graham, I'm curious to know how complex your smart playlists are. That is, do you have one smart playlist which says "PLaylist > Is > Smart Playlist 1" or anything like that? The general consensus is that 3g iPod's and 4g iPod's which were not updated for Podcast bookmarking (a tough call on the trade-off IMO) will update smart playlists which are completely isolated from other smart playlists. If a smart playlist relies on another smartplaylist to function, it is the general opinion and most often experience that these playlists will not update. My personal experiences are very inconsistent as to how smart playlists update when they are isolated. I have a 3g 15 gig that I bought in the summer of 2004 (clearance to make way for 4g's). At times mine works the same as you say, where as long as I exit the playlist before returning, it will update. But it seems that sometimes, on more complicated playlists (that is, playlists with a long list of criteria) it will not update.

Frungi, you say you have the latest firmware on your color iPod (they decided that these were not to be called 5g's but are still apart of the 4g line. A new generation requires some major difference in the interface apparently... I don't know). Anways, the fact that you have the most recent firmware is your problem. If you want dynamic updating on-the-go for your iPod you need to find the old version of the firmware somewhere online (I'm not exactly sure how to go about that process.) If you have trouble doing so post a seperate thread here and I'm sure someone would be glad to help you.

by genEric on Aug 21, 05 | 10:01 pm

genEric, my smart playlists arent that complex...like with between 2 and 3 conditions..my ipod is the 20gb hd with the click wheel.bought it in like january so its a newer one..

by Graham on Aug 21, 05 | 11:27 pm

Could someone hack together a firmware version that just works?

by Frungi on Aug 22, 05 | 10:53 am

Frungi, jump onboard iPod linux; It's not incredible now, but it'll be gold in a year or two.

by genEric on Aug 22, 05 | 2:23 pm

There are at least two issues here.

#1) The loss of live-updating on the iPod itself (without having synced to iTunes) is real. You almost certainly have this problem now if you applied the 6/26 iPod updater. It has been discussed extensively on Apple Discussions (see http://discussions.info.apple.com/webx?230@452.EoDwaYM04Oq.1@.68b36fa3 ).

#2) Live-updating on the iPod (again without having synced to iTunes) has never worked for smart playlists that reference other playlists. You should have this problem regardless of what iPod model and firmware you have.

I'll reiterate that these are both iPod problems, not iTunes problems. Presumably this is why Graham doesn't know what we're talking about.

by davepmiller on Aug 23, 05 | 11:51 pm

davepmiller, my ipod updates live fine i have the newest version of itunes, and im not talking about when i sync it to itunes...i have noticed no problems with the live updating..i dunno maybe im missing something but it works fine.

by Graham on Aug 24, 05 | 7:11 pm

To Dave's #2: From other comments on this site, it seems to depend on what kind of playlists they are and whether the iPod can hold the entire playlist, and possibly on the iPod model. Some report that it works.

Also, if Graham knows that SPLs update on his iPod, he knows enough for him. (I just wish I knew…)

by Frungi on Aug 24, 05 | 8:11 pm

Graham - do you have the latest version of iTunes and also the 2005-06-26 iPod updater? The bug is an iPod firmware bug, not an iTunes bug. You can have the latest version of iTunes and be OK as long as you haven't applied the 2005-06-26 updater.

by davepmiller on Aug 24, 05 | 9:59 pm

I think I've found a way to create a playlist that updates on an iPod
mini running version 1.3 (same as 2005-06-26 updater?) WITHOUT having to sync with iTunes.

Set up
PC running windows XP-pro
iTunes v.
edit/preferences is set to "manually manage songs and playlists"

iPod mini 6GB (purchased new in the last 2 weeks)
settings/about shows:
version: 1.3
model: M9801LL

The Test
1) On the iPod, locate 5 songs that have never been played before. (Play count is blank) From here on, we'll call the five songs A, B, C, D and E
2) For each song, set the Grouping field to 'test'. That is, edit the grouping field on the iPod
3) in iTunes, select the iPod and choose file/new smart playlist. We are creating the playlist on the iPod, not on iTunes.
4) set the criteria to:
match ALL the conditions
grouping contains 'test'
last played is not in the last 2 days
limit to 3 songs selected at random
live updating selected
5) click OK. The new playlist called 'test' is displayed, showing three of our five songs. since they were picked at random, say the three songs in order are: E, B, A
6) while still viewing the playlist, click on the shuffle icon in the lower left of the iTunes window. It should light up blue, and the play list will get reordered. Say the new list order is:
E, A, B
7) Eject the iPod and physically disconnect it from the PC.
8) on iPod set settings/shuffle to 'song'.
9) choose the 'test' playlist. It turns out the re-shuffling in step 6 had no effect on the iPod. The list order on the iPod is from step 5:
E, B, A

Now, if the smart playlist updates as we would like, we should be able to select the 'test' playlist, hit play and hear song E. When song E finishes, song B should begin. At that point, if we exit the 'test' playlist and then go back to the 'test' playlist, we should see that song B is now the first song in the list, with A and some new song (either C or D) added as the third song. The order of the second and third song is random so we could see the updated playlist as any of the following:
B, A, C
B, A, D
B, C, A
B, D, A

You must exit the playlist then revisit it to force it to update.

Dont know if the randomizing in steps 4, 6 & 8 are all required. maybe some can be deleted

by dwilli on Sep 01, 05 | 1:43 am

Sorry to burst the bubble, but I'm almost 100% sure that iPod mini 1.3 is NOT broken.

I'm pretty sure that the one that's broken is iPod mini 1.4

My mini has 1.3, which does NOT include PODCASTS nor the evil broken smartplaylists.

by whitemiata on Sep 01, 05 | 4:33 pm


I dunno for sure about other iPods, but my understanding is that on the more recent iPods without the latest (smartplaylist-breaking updater) a smart playlist that is based on another smart playlist WILL work...

provided that all the music referenced in any way by any of the smart playlists is ON the device.

For instance if you have three smartplaylists:

ClassicalPlaylist - which selects all songs with Genre "Classical"

NotClassical - which selects all songs where Playlist IS NOT ClassicalPlaylist

BestNotClassical - which selects the Top 5 highest rated songs from NotClassical


IF ALL THE MUSIC, and ALL 3 PLAYLISTS are on the iPod, then your BestNotClassical playlist should update as you change ratings of song.

But if you don't have all the music, and for instance if you DO NOT load the "ClassicalPlaylist" playlist on the iPod (using only update selected playlists for instance and only selecting the "NotClassical and BestNotClassical")...

then the Playlist will NOT update.


A third issue that may be going on here is that apparently only certain criteria are truly updated live on the iPod.

For instance, creating a smartplaylist that says:

All songs where Artist is "Pink Floyd"
Select 5 songs by Random

... you'll get the same playlist over and over and over. It will NOT create a new random 5 songs.

on the other hand if you make the playlist:
Artist is "Pink Floyd"
Not played in last 2 days
Select 5 songs by Random

the playlist WILL change.

It's a little stupid if you ask me (you'd think that by Random should be reapplied every time you return to the playlist) but that's how it seems to work.


by whitemiata on Sep 01, 05 | 4:59 pm


I didn't know the mini was up v1.4. Just visited Apple's site and you are correct. I don't have the problem you all are stuck with. Sorry if I added to the noise on this thread.

by dwilli on Sep 01, 05 | 9:12 pm


I have a 3G iPod. Maybe the playlists referencing playlists problem got fixed only for later versions. I'm planning to get a new one if they ever come out with an 80GB model, so I'd be quite pleased if that problem was fixed.

Also, I agree the programming of the random function (and the failure to update it) is a little stupid.


by davepmiller on Sep 02, 05 | 12:20 am

Hey, Dave & Alessandro:

I'd like to speak up for the random function as it's implemented at present. I use it to select songs that I've added recently (songs added in last month, my rating of 0 stars, limit to 25 selected by random).

Since the random function doesn't update every single time I open the playlist, the songs stay on there until I've had the chance to rate them. Once I rate them, they drop off and are replaced by other ones.

This way, if there's a song I like but I don't know how to rate it, it will stay on the playlist until I decide. Also, if I hear a song I don't recognize, when I open iTunes I can scan the playlist and usually identify it by genre.

If I want to refresh the random selection, I just edit the smart playlist to select by "album," click "OK," and then change it back to "random."

by talking_animal on Sep 03, 05 | 2:54 pm

In case anyone doesn't already know, the 2006-01-10 iPod Updater corrects the loss of dynamic updating on the iPod. I was seriously put out by the loss of this function last fall, and now it's back and I"m super pleased that it is. (4G B&W 40gig iPod)

by mbft on Jan 26, 06 | 4:55 pm

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