How to play mp3 songs/music folder structure on iPhone/iPad/iPod

Let me start with saying how much I hate iTunes and the way they are organizing the music. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I ripped all my CD collection and keep all my music in a neatly arranged folder structure. Something like Genres->Artist->Album. Many CDs were ripped years ago with various programs and many don’t contain all the mp3 tags so they’ll look really bad in iTunes. I was using dTunes for a while but the application wasn’t updated in more than two years and doesn’t work with the current firmware versions. What to do?

Before going into details, the solution offered here will only work if your iPhone/iPad/iPod is jailbroken. Thanks to mighty Apple, there is no file system access on a regular non jailbroken device so if you don’t like to get your hands dirty you are out of luck. That being said, if you want to play your mp3 folder structure there are two main methods:

Method 1: iPhone folder music player using iFiles (Apple App Store)

iFiles is a quite nifty file manager application (currently at the version 1.9.1). iFiles is available via Apple’s App Store so you won’t get a real file system access. It does offer its own file system storage which is the next best thing as you can store music exactly the way you want, with a folder structure. The application is not free, but $4 is a small price to pay for folder music awesomeness.

You can store music in iFiles using its own capabilities (iFiles also works as a WiFi drive) or, if your iPhone is jailbroken, via iPhoneBrowser. Using iPhoneBrowser is a little tricky, you’ll need to navigate to var\mobile\Applications, identify the App (hint – the folder has a cryptic name – unique identifier and inside it, there is another folder called iFiles.app). Open the subfolder Documents and inside it you’ll find subfolders for Documents, Movies, Music, Pictures. Copy using the iPhoneBrowser your entire music folder structure inside Music folder and iFiles will access it automatically.

By default, iFiles will only play one song at a time. To enable automatic play of the next song in a certain folder, navigate to Settings->Audio Playback and enable both Autoplay on selection and Autostart next options.

Method 2: iPhone folder music player using iFile

You’ll need two applications to use this method (and a jailbroken iPhone):

1. iPhoneBrowser – wasn’t updated in a while but still works well and offer access to the entire iDevice file system – you can create / delete folders and copy files back and forth with ease. You’ll need to have iTunes installed on the sysem in order to work.

Note: var\mobile is the folder where all the action is happening. You can create a subfolder inside it called Music if you want to keep everything neat.

2. Cydia has a very neat application called iFile for iPhone. It is not free unfortunately (costs $4) but in my opinion it provides a great value. iFile is a file manager, viewer, editor, etc and the fact that it plays songs from your file system/folders is just one of the side features. iFile also acts like a WiFi Web Server and supports a multitude of formats like PDF, HTML, Microsoft files, media, etc. Zip archives are supported and you can e-mail any file from the file system as an attachment as well. Text files can be edited directly from the app.

In my experience, iFile only plays one song at a time. It might be useful in this case to create one playlist per folder, playlist that contains all the files in a folder. I found a nice (and free) little utility that recursively creates m3u playlists per each folder/subfolder called MP3 Recursive Playlist Generator by Nicolas Carpenter.

This is the full list of supported files:

  • File Viewers with support for following file types
    • Sound File Types: aac, aiff, aif, aifc, amr, alac, caf, m4a, m4r, mp2, mp3, mpga, pcm, snd, wav, wma
    • Text File Types: c, cfg, cnf, conf, cpp, css, h, j, java, js, list, log, m, mm, nib, php, plist, script, sh, strings, txt, xib
    • Movie File Types: mov, mp4, mpv, m4v, 3gp, 3g2, 3gpp2
    • Image File Types: gif, jpeg, jpg, png, tiff, tif, bmp, crw, cr2, erf, raf, 3fr, kdc, mef, mrw, nrw, nef, orf, rw2, pef, arw, sr2, svg
    • Document File Types: rtf, html, htm, pdf
    • Microsoft File Types: doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt, pps, pptx
    • Apple iWork File Types: pages, numbers, key
    • Other File Types: zip, 7z, deb, rar, tar, tar.gz, tar.bz2, tar.Z, tgz, tbz2, gz, bz2, Z, xml
    • File Types via External Viewers:
      • SQLite3: sqlite3, sqlitedb, db (available here or in Cydia)
  • Interaction with other Tweaks/Applications (Cydia):
    • Safari Download Manager: Allows to open saved files directly in iFile.
    • AttachmentSaver: Allows to open saved files directly in iFile.
    • Music Controls: allows to interact with iFile’s Audio Player e.g. on Lock Screen etc.
    • Indiana Calder

      Thanks you just saved me from the enemy (apple)

    • Indiana Calder

      Thanks you just saved me from the enemy (apple)

    • mechanerd

      What date was this article written? Why can’t blog article list the date since it needs to meet the context of searches. ? I mean, is this article from 2010 and related to iPhone IOS 4 or 5 or 6 ?