How to add your music to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

Say you have a new — or maybe not-so-new — iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and the first thing you want to do is hear your favorite song. You need to know how to download music on an iPhone. Here are some easy ways to add your music to your Apple device.

Apple’s all-purpose multimedia repository, iTunes, is the music management hub for your Apple devices. Make sure you have updated your OS to the latest version your desktop or laptop machine can run, and then download the latest version of iTunes from the Apple website.

Now, it’s time to start adding music to your iTunes library. Launch iTunes on your computer and then select File > Add to Library. This lets you import your chosen music files and folders on your computer, external hard drives, and even from cloud storage like Dropbox. And of course, Apple would love for you to purchase additional songs or whole albums from the iTunes Store.

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The wired way

You can add music to your Apple devices the old-fashioned way: With the Lightning cable that ships with every Apple device. It plugs directly into the USB port on your computer. You can choose to import your entire catalog of music into your device, if you have enough storage space. Most people do not have that much space free and so they are forced to pick and choose favorites to carry with them on-the-go. Go into the iTunes interface and check off the albums, artists, or genres you want to store on your device or create a new playlist that includes your favorite selections.

When your device is plugged into the computer, it appears as an icon at the top left-hand column of the iTunes window. Then click on the Music button in the top bar. Make sure the Sync Music box is checked. If you’re syncing your whole library, check Entire music library. If you’re just syncing a playlist, check Selected playlists, artists, and genres and then select the playlist you made for your device. Then select the Sync button in the bottom right hand side of the iTunes window. When the sync is completed, click Apply and then the Done button and disconnect your device.

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The wireless way

Some of the newer Mac laptops are — shall we say — USB challenged. If you have one of those, or have simply developed an aversion to cables, there’s a wireless way to get your tunes into your phone via your Wi-Fi connection. Here’s how to do it.

It’s best to have all your software updated. So in addition to updating your Mac OS and iTunes on the computer, you also want to download the latest version of iOS for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. To get the latest version, tap Settings > General > Software Update, and choose the Download and Install button. After the update is completed, make sure your computer is connected to your secured wireless network and is running iTunes. Now, plug your device in to a power source and then navigate to Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync and tap the Sync Now button.

The cloud way

There’s wired and wireless, but there is also a third way: The cloud. With Apple’s iCloud, you have the option of backing up your music in the cloud and accessing any song you want at any time. iCloud covers all of the music you purchased from the iTunes Store, but not tunes you obtained any other way. In addition to iCloud backup available via iTunes, Apple offers two paid cloud-based services designed to cover the rest of your collection, augment your musical collection, and make your current songs available everywhere and at all times: Apple Music and iTunes Match.

Apple Music: Apple Music is a subscription plan that offers a variety of features. In addition to its subscription music catalog, it offers iCloud Music Library syncing across devices, Beats 1 radio, customized playlists based on your preferences, artist exclusives, and even song lyrics. Its three plans target individuals, families, and college students or teachers for $10, $15, and $5 per month respectively for streaming content or downloading music to listen to offline. The Individual plan lets you access 50 million songs, in addition to your personal iTunes library, and other exclusive content. The Family plan offers the same features except it can include up to six accounts. The Student plan has the same benefits as the Individual plan for half the price and is available to both students and teachers. A three-month free trial lets you try before you buy. Apple’s Music app on your phone, lets you access all your synced music from iTunes on your desktop as well as Apple’s music subscription service.

You can sign up for Apple Music on your desktop or on your mobile device. On the Mac, launch iTunes and click the For You tab at the top of the window and click the Choose Your Plan button. On your mobile device, click Apple’s Music app and tap on the For You heart icon at the bottom of the screen to get the same choice of plans.

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iTunes Match: For $25 per year, iTunes Match uses metadata matching and audio fingerprinting to match your songs to its iTunes Store recordings and maintains your iCloud Music Library. If you aim to have your personal iTunes library available on all your devices and don’t care about subscription services, iTunes Match may be your jam. The service can match up to 100,000 of your songs to its database, letting you stream or download them to up to 10 devices. Music you already purchased from the iTunes Store does not count toward the limit. iTunes Match is currently integrated into the Apple Music subscription service, so if you subscribe to Apple Music, you can say goodbye to iTunes Match and its extra fee. If you aren’t interested in an Apple Music subscription, you can still hold on to iTunes Match.

To subscribe, launch iTunes and click the Store tab at the top of the window. Then scroll all the way down the page until you see iTunes Match under the Features section. Click the link and subscribe.

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iCloud Music Library: This service works with both Apple Music and  iTunes Match to store your personal music files by matching your songs to tracks already available in the iTunes Store. That lets you either stream or download any selection of up to 100,000 songs to up to 10 authorized devices. If you enable iCloud Music Library, you cannot sync music from your computer to your phone, because this setup facilitates only sharing between devices.

Regardless of which methods you choose to purchase, store, and listen to your music, you have many options that let you tote your favorite tunes around with you wherever you go.

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