There are quite a few flaws with Apple's mobile products, and one that drives me crazy is their reliance upon iTunes for all your music syncing needs. If you want a song on your iPhone, you pretty much have to use iTunes to get it on there. Either that or buy it directly from the iTunes app on your device.
Now, don't get me wrong, iTunes is a good way to buy and organize your music library, but sometimes you just don't want to be locked down like that. So what are the alternatives? You'll probably be surprised, but there's actually more than one way to put music on your iPhone without using iTunes!
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There are some free, big-name cloud services that will let you upload your music collection to play on your iPhone, on or offline, and I'll be covering three of them below before we get to other options.
One of the best cloud-based music streaming apps is Google Play Music, which allows users to upload up to 50,000 of their own songs for free. Without ever paying a dime, you can upload your music to the cloud, listen to it on any device, and even stream Google's entire music library if you're willing to put up with a few ads.
Adding your music library to Google Play is incredibly easy, though you'll need a computer to handle the initial upload. For more information on this part of the process, make sure to visit our full guide below:
In addition to serving as an online home for your music library, Google Play Music is a music store in the same vein as iTunes. When you purchase songs or albums through the Google Play Music app, they'll immediately be added to your library, which then allows you to save a copy of the MP3 to your phone or computer.
Beyond just streaming your own music, Google Play Music offers an optional subscription service called All Access that lets you stream Google's entire music library for free and without ads. The service costs $9.99/month for an individual account, but the $14.99 family plan can be split six ways to save some serious cash. On top of that, All Access comes with the ad-free YouTube service, YouTube Red, so Google Play Music is a great option here.
If you're not a Google person, Amazon also has a cloud music service that works with your iPhone called Amazon Music. However, unlike Google's offer for 50,000 songs, Amazon only allows a measly 250 songs from your own music collection to be uploaded to the cloud (Note: MP3s purchased from Amazon don't count against your cap). Beyond that, you can either pay $24.99 per year to store up to 250,000 of your own songs, or you can use your Amazon Prime membership to get access to over a million streaming songs with Amazon Prime Music.
One major drawback is that if you want to purchase any music, you have to visit visit Amazon's website using the Safari web browser. You cannot purchase MP3s via the Cloud Player app. But on Amazon's website, you can browse the ample library of over 20 million songs and albums.
Once imported or downloaded, your songs are immediately uploaded to the Amazon cloud, where they can then be played via the Amazon Cloud Player app, and they work offline as well.
If you store your music collection on Dropbox, you don't need any other apps to play the files — just log in to your Dropbox account, and select whatever song you wish to hear. The song will automatically play in the web browser, and even give you a nice dark playback screen to help save battery.
You can also leave the browser and open other apps or navigate to anywhere on the device and the music won't stop playing! (I'm looking at you, YouTube.) If you don't want to use your browser, you can download the free Dropbox app and play your music there, too. It's a little smoother than using the browser and also continues playback when you leave the app.
Another nice feature is the ability to "star" songs or groups of songs for offline play. Dropbox is a super easy way to get new songs onto your iPhone and play them anywhere, anytime. If only you could create playlists, I may never need another music player again.
Don't want to use any of the big services? Here are a few programs you can use in place of iTunes to transfer music from your computer to your iPhone.
If you're a Windows user, there's a free program called CopyTrans Manager that can fully replace iTunes and relieves you of some of its common annoyances. The freeware allows for on-the-go edits, drag-and-drop additions to your library, and can be copied to a flash drive for management on multiple PCs.
CopyTrans Manager also transfers your iTunes library to its own music player. This is great for people who already have a bunch of music on iTunes and are afraid of losing those songs by using another service.
Media Monkey is another free media player for Windows computers. Once installed, Media Monkey will scan your computer for audio files and automatically add them to the library. You can also sync your iPhone to Media Monkey and avoid iTunes altogether. The program utilizes add-ons and has a bunch of customizable skins and features.
You can download the free version or opt for the Gold edition, which runs for $24.95. The Gold edition includes a few extras like the automatic library organizer and faster CD burning speeds. If you don't want to buy Gold outright, you can also get a free copy by completing an offer with one of Media Monkey's partners (Apple, Gamefly, GAP).
Media Monkey only recently added compatibility with Apple products, but it's got all the features of iTunes and more. Check their list to see if your device is compatible.
If your iPhone is jailbroken, you can use Cydia tweaks to import music directly onto your device. Unfortunately, most of these tweaks have become outdated recently, so we only have one left to recommend at this time. There is currently no working jailbreak method for iOS 10.3.x versions, but if you're still running iOS 10.2 or lower, you can use this guide to get started:
Bridge is an awesome Cydia application that allows you to import music and videos to your media library right from your phone. No need to plug into a computer or sync with iTunes.
Any media file that you have on your iPhone can be imported into your media library. If friends send you songs via email or if you download some music from Dropbox, you can use Bridge to add them to your iPhone's music library in seconds.
Bridge is available for $1.99 from the BigBoss Repo, and is compatible with all iOS devices — even those running iOS 10.2.
Of course, one of the most convenient ways to "add" music to your phone is via a streaming music player. Pandora, TuneinRadio, Rdio, and Spotify are a few popular music apps that let you stream music on your iPhone.
Just sign up for any of these free services and begin listening to new music instantly. The free versions of most of these applications do come with intermittent ads, but they can be removed with a paid app upgrade or monthly subscription.
And don't forget about YouTube, either. The app and the website are both pretty good for finding new, old, and hard to find music and playing it wherever and whenever you want. You may not be able to store those songs on your iPhone, but you do have access to a seemingly unlimited media library on the go.
Know any other ways to download or transfer music to your iPhone without iTunes? Have you tried any of these apps or programs already? Let us know in the comments section below.