Having spent a day with iTunes 9 and OS 3.1 on an iPhone and iPod touch, I find that I am completely smitten with a feature I pretty much completely ignored before yesterday. I’m referring to Genius, which hadn’t lived up to its name until this […]

iTunes IconHaving spent a day with iTunes 9 and OS 3.1 on an iPhone and iPod touch, I find that I am completely smitten with a feature I pretty much completely ignored before yesterday. I’m referring to Genius, which hadn’t lived up to its name until this latest retooling.

Since upgrading to iTunes 9, I’ve used Genius Mixes exclusively on both my computer and my portable devices. Contrast this to the two or three times I ever used a Genius playlist since their introduction in iTunes 8.

Get Your Mix On

First, in case you’re like me, it’s possible you need a little help in getting your Genius Mixes set up in the first place. The key is that once you upgrade your iTunes installation, there’s one more step to take before they appear. Go to your “Store” menus, and click on “Update Genius.” Once Apple (s aapl) delivers your results, your new Mixes will appear in the source menu in the left-hand side of the iTunes window, right under the Genius atom icon.

Update GeniusClicking on it should reveal 12 squares with album cover composite images that show artists representative of the content found in each mix. I say should because I’m not sure if iTunes will necessarily generate all 12 for smaller library sizes, but you should at least have a few to choose from so long as you have more than a couple artists in your collection.

My Mixes

Individual mixes are named so as to give you an idea of what genre of music they contain. For example, some of my mixes are as follows:

  • Indie Mix — Based on: Death Cab For Cutie, Rilo Kiley, The Most Serene Republic, and others.
  • Hip Hop Mix — Based on: Kanye West, Common, The Fugees, and others.
  • Pop Mix — Based on: Ray LaMontagne, Rocky Votolato, Adele, and others.
  • Punk Mix — Based on: Rancid, Rise Against, Brand New, and others.
  • Country Mix — Based on Wilco, Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, and others.

Genius MixesMost of my mixes look like those above. Smart, clearly defined, and pretty much how I would’ve divvied up my library if I ever bothered to arrange tracks into genre groupings. A few seem like collections of assorted odds and ends Apple couldn’t quite fit into the other categories. All are admittedly interesting, and most importantly, useful ways of sub-dividing my music collection, though.

How Well Does it Work?

Playing through these mixes, I found that Apple has indeed improved their Genius engine, since the results were much more impressive than they’ve ever been using Genius playlists based on a single song. My collection is diverse enough that I don’t always want to just turn on iTunes DJ, but a Genius Mix sets the mood perfectly for parties, for work, for working out, or just for relaxing.

Apple still needs to make some improvements before I’m completely sold, though. As of right now, you can only view your mixes in Grid mode, and only the track currently playing is visible. To see what’s coming up next, you actually have to fast forward to the next song. While it’s kind of exciting not knowing what’s in store, I’d much rather be able to see a playlist like in iTunes DJ or in classic Genius mode.

I also don’t like how you have to specifically select the playlists in your Audio settings and sync your iPhone or iPod in order to get Genius Mixes on your device. Genius should be able to analyze the content you already have on your iPhone or iPod and create Genius Mixes specific to the device. Maybe this doesn’t affect people whose libraries match on both, but my computer-based music collections far exceed the capacities of my mobile devices.


As for Genius recommendations, I do find that they’re much better than they were when they were first introduced. Of course, Apple’s had a year to collect data from millions of users to make things better, so it would be more remarkable if there wasn’t any noticeable difference in the returned results. Also, Genius will always be a subjective thing, so it’s hard to determine the efficacy of results beyond just the size of the catalog of artists available.

How are you finding your experience with Genius Mixes? Is Apple’s recommendation and organization engine finally worthy of its moniker?

  1. i feel the total opposite. genius playlists were much more what i was looking for than genius mixes. my mixes are so random and include so many songs i don’t think are relevant to each other, my collection isn’t that eclectic either (i mean it made rock mixes 1 through 6).

  2. I have to agree that the mixes feature is awesome in the fact that it takes the guess and labor work out of doing it. But personally, in my experience with the iPhone Genius Mixes (are they different than desktop – I thought it all depended on music?) the selection of music went down. I would shuffle five or six times and hear the same song twice or three times. Very poor job and not much shuffling either.

  3. I just noticed that you can sync those mixes back to the iPhone.

    “update genius”
    click on iPhone / iPod
    music tab

    Select certain genius mixes that you want synced to the device Really great way to auto-fill my iPhone w/o much effort!

  4. I’m rather disappointed. Genius gave me 8 rock, 1 RB/Soul, 1 Pop, 1 Hip Hop/Rap, and 1 Soundtrack. I have scads of country, alternative, and instrumentals (which are all probably higher in counts than soundtracks) but none of those made the Genius cut. I would not say that rock comprises three-fourths of my collection.

    I hope that they figure out a way to show us the mix libraries as well. Basing it on cover art, I have to agree with Carrie that some of the contents don’t really make sense. Dido is in there with John Lennon? I wouldn’t put those together. Nor Men at Work and the Go-Gos. But like you said, it’s subjective, and really, more of the compilations make sense than don’t.

    Plus, you can still use Genius in the old way, by clicking on a song and then clicking on Genius, which did make sense and still does.

    Live up to its name? For the most part, I’d still have to say no. I’d be sold if I had every genre well represented. Then the odd-ball song/artist in the mix wouldn’t bother me at all. I mean, it’s my music, so I like all of the songs (well, not Dido; she belongs to my daughter!).

  5. I just turned on Genius for the 1st time last night after upgrading to iTunes 9.

    As someone who has stayed away from the feature but gladly used Pandora, I have to say that I LOVE the Genius Mixes. I have a nice selection of 3 Rocks, 2 Punks, 2 Soundtracks, 1 Country, 2 Alternative, maybe something else.

    I didn’t have them synced to my iPhone, so I’ve been using the 1 song Genius feature while mobile today, and, like Pandora, it fits my needs very well. Except its all songs from my library and I don’t have to skip through the odd song on Pandora that I just can’t stand (stop recommending Foo Fighters already!).

  6. Genius, while a nice feature still fails for me. The mixes are a nice addition but iTunes makes them too diverse. I might aswel just play the library with shuffle on and get a better mix then.

    So for me, no genius…

  7. Does anyone know how to get more than 6? I have 4 of the same type, but what I really wanted was an Alternative Rock genius…

    1. you need more songs. The number of genius playlists is determined by the size of your library. 12 is the max.

  8. One thing I really don’t like about the new iTunes is the green/zoom button no longer switches between fullscreen and miniplayer, just makes the full screen larger or smaller… a bit useless. You now need to use Command+Shift+M to do the same job.

    1. Option-clicking the green button works too.

    2. Completely agree. Wonder if this was intensional.?

    3. WORD!!! this pissed me off so much

  9. I like the Mixes – definitely something I’m going to use more often than the old version of Genius playlists. The feature doesn’t seem to be working quite right for me though…

    Out of ~11 GB of music, iTunes gives me 9 mixes. 5 of them are rock, plus one classical, one vocal, one pop, and one soundtrack mix. That’s about right for my tastes, so I’ll give it credit there. But the problem is that the “Vocal Mix” isn’t actually vocal music… it seems to be mostly my instrumentals, in fact! I double checked to see that my songs didn’t have the wrong genre on the files or something, but no cigar… Very weird. It’d be nice to be able to customize the mixes, for instance to create an Alternative Rock genius out of my Rock mixes (like a previous reviewer said), but so far I do like the mixes it’s been putting together. Thanks, Apple!

  10. I have been using the Genius feature since, so Genius Mixes is a huge improvement for me. On a small library it does not work that well, so last night I had to add 25GB worth of music to my work PC for it to work. It is great, I love it.


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